Regarding the editorial andquot;All must agree on objectives for our growthandquot; (Feb. 21), I applaud the position on collaborative efforts for . Cooperative work by community stakeholders, creating shared objectives is a sound way to achieve community progress. My prior experience in communities across the United States convinces me that investigating the detailed plan to achieve the objectives is a good first step.
While the three declared objectives represent definite positive impact on our community, what do we do next? How does a community create living wage jobs, increase retail options and increase profitability of existing businesses?
One of the critical elements needed is capital. It takes investment and it takes money to make this happen. So where is the capital investment and where is the money?
An interest in making investments must be created by our community. Consider how our community can inspire this interest in investment. Consider actions needed to achieve all three objectives.
I offer a few obvious ones:
?Convince community stakeholders to adopt an annual detailed list of things to do to make progress in community development. Not a plan to plan a solution, but develop the detailed solution.
?Inventory and market existing community assets.
?Investigate e-commerce jobs and technology based growth.
?Continue developing the community image and reputation.
?Support local businesses. Reduce red tape and strive to make doing business in Del Norte County easier.
?Make starting a business easier. Create a business incubation center, already underway at Rural Human Services, to assist small businesses to get started.
?Increase the school partnerships to increase training and development options. Include the community college in the plan.
?Keep the pressure to develop affordable housing solutions.
?Explore regional opportunities for development. Consider the Northwest California and Southwest Oregon area and research opportunities for industry clusters to develop.
It's a long list, but segments of the community have efforts underway in many of these areas and could be more successful if combining forces and energies towards the common objectives.
An important concept in moving forward is to work simultaneously on developing skills of the people who live here and diversifying the economic base that supports the community. This sounds easy in one sentence, but in reality, is a complex task. It can be no surprise that a recent study of businessowners over a broad area of the country reveals that the quality of the local labor market is the biggest issue for businesses, even ahead of taxes and regulations.
So a strategy to recruit businesses leans heavily on also working on developing a skilled workforce and affordable housing for a workforce. We need improvements in the community infrastructure to sustain the growth.
How do we proceed?
Now that we've described the current environment and opportunities, how do we proceed to a solution?
There is a praxis solution that we would be well advised to consider. There is an approach to community development that has been used extensively in the United States, and we can consider this approach as we launch this large effort.
It is called Asset Based Development and it is based on the concept of building on what communities have, focusing on the positive, and the strengths. Much like the work of the community group working on the recent tourism and marketing effort, they focused on the andquot;community assetsandquot; and developed actions to work to develop those assets.
This process begins with assumption that successful community building involves rediscovering and mobilizing resources already present in the community: the skills of individuals; the power achieved through building relationships; assets presented in the array of local institutions; the physician and medical infrastructure of the community; and the local economy.
Although some resources from outside the community are often needed, the key to lasting solutions comes from within. The gifts and skills of residents and the assets of the physical community are always the best starting place. No plan, solution or organization from outside the community can duplicate what is already here.
What are some of the challenges facing a community that pursues asset-based development?
Briefly, the challenges include: not understanding what community development is; change is not comfortable; lack of resources; we are forced to look outside our area to find the resources we once found locally; negative attitudes; lack of participation across generations; elderly and youth are at times left out; lack of leadership capacity.
Viewed another way, careful consideration of the above elements represents the ultimate strategic plan, or the road map to community development success.
The Chamber of Commerce is helping to start this process. A consultant is working with community stakeholders to help develop the momentum and the vision for community development. It is a great time to take this momentum and move forward.
We can assemble the stakeholders and use the considerable resources of the community to launch a successful community development initiative.
Larry Lakes is executive director Rural Human Services in Crescent City.