Community Matters Local Economies Conf Call Notes 11.11.10 | Entrepreneurship | Local Food

Local Economies

Conference Call Notes
Thursday, November 11, 2010, 4-5pm EST We used a live version of this document to collaboratively add questions, collect thoughts, transcribe important talking points, before, during and after the Local Economies conference call. You can access this document via this link: Attending Many thanks to the > 65 people who were listening in and participating on the call. Your insight and feedback was invaluable. Moderating • Bonnie Shaw, Partner, BYO consulting Presenting • Charles Marohn, Community Growth Institute, Strong Towns • Christopher Markuson, Pueblo County, Colorado • Hamilton Simons-Jones, Operation REACH, Inc. Agenda • 15mins – Introduction to Local Economies, call protocol, etc • 35mins – Open for questions/discussion. • 10mins – How can CommunityMatters continue to support this conversation?

Questions and Conversation:   1. I hope we can talk a little about local food and local energy and innovative ways of producing both. Here is a good example of a for profit (with a non profit soul) that is doing value added products. . Recycling of local natural resources is a good model uses trees that would go to a landfills and making local products and energy. Local for profit agriculture works even in NYC 2. I can not attend, but as I believe we are entering what will essentially be a no growth phase of the global economy and local economies in the US, due to collapsing ecosystems, what do they recommend along the lines of use less and share more to develop community prosperity. Greg gerritt 3. I would like to know how much of an obstacle the combination of the nature of debt-based economies, the Great Recession, and the shift towards “thrift-as-a-virtue” poses to the mission of creating viable local

Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10


5. 6.




economies. It seems to me that consumerism, at least in its current incarnation, focuses exclusively on providing maximum value to the consumer while minimizing the consumer’s cost. Hidden costs such as outflow of money from the community, loss of jobs, etc., are rarely considered, nor are latent values such as community-building, sense of place, interacting directly with producer or skilled merchant/retailer, etc. --Jim Zack, Our organization has a Local Economy Committee that is looking at ways to bolster our region’s self-reliance through import substitution, complementary currencies, local banking, buy-local incentives, procurelocal programs, and grow/make local programs. It often seems that we are “preaching to the choir” in that we are not reaching the majority of the population that will be integral to create a shift to a more resilient economy. How would you recommend we “prosthelytize” our mission to the masses? --Jim Zack, How difficult is it to start a Community Bank and a Community Corporation? --Jim Zack, How can starting a Community bank or foundation be established when the haves are hit all the time for support and the have nots are in that position? What talking points can be stressed as a tool for education? ~ Steve Beck, brandondoesit.beck@gmail. What exceptional models for local food systems (e.g. combo of aspects from production to processing to distribution to consumption - from farmer’s market to local food market to cert kitchens to restaurants) exist? What were the funding models? For profit/non-profit etc and what are the best avenues to proceed for funding on this type of model? (Concept for our grain elevator in Hayden CO) - Tammie Delaney, Yampa Valley Feeds in Hayden, CO and Hayden EDC o At Community Matters, the session I participated in had a great speaker named Bruce Smith from an organization called Food to Table. He had a ton of great examples and a solid model. You can read more about him at the writeup I did for the session. -Chuck Marohn I have same questions as the entry above but focusing on our downtown real estate development venture, which includes a 2,400 SF vacant former restaurant building and a 1500 SF new local and fresh foods grocery store in adjacent building which we’ve just developed within the past year. Gene Aleci, Community Design Works, Inc., Lancaster, PA. How about the fiber economy? There’s a lot of talk about food, but we all wear clothes and sit on/sleep on furniture. In Western North Carolina we are having some success growing the regional economy through developing the craft industry...and are looking at ways to add value to the fiber produced in this region. - Judi Jetson, HandMade in America o Absolutely - any product that fills a unique niche defines a non-commodity focused good. By not attempting to compete with the large corporations who produce their fiber goods in China, you’re creating a niche product that is sustainable, has market potential, and when exported outside your taxable boundary, can be a primary dollar-generating item.  How do you efficiently and intelligently export your goods? We’ve found that Geographic Information Systems (GIS) is the key to doing this. Take a look at for a simple,
Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10

affordable tool that provides a wealth of market information in a map-based format. There are numerous other resources available, too - some of which are mentioned in the link above ( --Chris Markuson 10. Local Food – hard to compete on a price level – no magic solution – if you step back and look at the world – becoming much more localized, cost of energy is going up and will continue to rise – makes the cost of transportation higher – get a tow hold in the market o Local fuel in addition to food - non-profit model - work force training model, grants, not relaying on profit at the start - subsidize it in the first few years to get it off the ground o It’s important to look at a couple elements when looking to develop the local food industry. They are:  Work together, via having community conversations, to develop a local producer to restaurant & grocer program.  Find what attributes make your local food producers unique. If, for example, your soil and climate is conducive to growing specialty onions, then focus on finding ways to target customers nationwide (or even the next state over) who want to purchase specialty onions. (Chris Markuson) 11. You keep mentioning long-term, in my community Brandon, VT just south of Middlebury, long term is not an option for many people. They want results now, flip a switch. How do you educate people to accept that things take time, sometimes a long time and that America is changing and changing dramatically? ~ Steve Beck, o Does Steve’s comment require that we move toward a more protectionist stance in our federal policies? If not, how do we “go back” to a 100 years ago-type economy in the face of global markets and competition? Or are we just preparing for a time, as Chuck says, where the global market won’t function as cheaply as it does today? For example, at what point does local agriculture become more than just a “niche” market and move into actually providing most people with most of their staple foods?  Agriculture, at its core, is a commodity business, and focuses on doing business at the lowest cost. Unless local agriculture can define a niche customer base (and, local consumers might be that niche), it will be out-priced by the large food producers.  Local food can compete on quality terms today. A changing economy (price inflation, higher oil prices, a devalued dollar) will expand the niche market to a broader economy. o I believe Steve has given voice to the key question of our time. In a macro-sense I would rephrase it as follows: Are we going to have an economy based on a lottery mindset where we can all get something for nothing, or are we going to do the hard work of building a resilient economy based on real economics at the local level? -Chuck Marohn o Steve’s point is a key factor. Getting the economy up and running quickly is a very difficult task. One of the key strategies of Economic Gardening is to focus your efforts on businesses who have what it takes to expand rapidly, building many jobs in a short period of time.  Littleton, Colorado emphasizes that entrepreneurs who are ready, willing and able to grow quickly have certain temperaments in

Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10

common. Littleton uses Myers-Briggs temperament measuring theory to identify the entrepreneurs in their community who have good ideas, and who are able to “roll the dice” in a big way, looking to make millions in a short time period. I suggest looking at some of the studies relating to entrepreneurial temperaments, as well as 2nd Stage Growth companies. The Kauffman Foundation ( and the Edward Lowe Foundation ( both have a tremendous amount of information about these concepts on their websites. o It seems that to “go back” and to get to a more locally focused econony we need to be willing to give some things up, as a community agree to live more simply... pick the best of the “old ways” while selecting the best of the new technologies.  Actually, innovation and outside-the-box thinking is key. Finding ways to help businesses who have a unique product or idea to grow and expand is were a local community can work to boost their economy.  Getting professionals together from different disciplines (Internet / search engine optimization / etc with an entrepreneur, a marketing expert, a shipping company, a university, a library and others) to tackle problems with unique, innovative methods is key. 12. Training - What type of funding do you get from the Dept of Labor? o We have had a few streams. DOLETA (Dept of Labor Education and Training Administration) and WIA (Workforce Investment Act) being the main sources. This funding is attached to providing training for hard-toemploy people that lands them in a job at the end of the program.-Hamilton, Operation REACH. o How many people can these funds support? 13. Sustainability o Losing major manufacturing o Focusing on the arts o Focusing on what we have and how to grow that o People are very upset and scared about the direction 14. Local jobs need to be rooted in the community. o In any given human unit, there’s more work to be done than there are people to do it. Communities need to sit down and assess what work needs to be done that’s not being done and figure out how that work will be paid for, whether through wages, bartering, time dollars, etc. Carol Bragg, 15. Economic Gardening sounds like the concept of organic gardening vs "conventional" gardening, in its shunning of use of external inputs (luring companies to locate in your community). In a global economy its easier than ever for a company to pick up and move - need to focus on local distinctiveness 16. What is one step folks would recommend to start their communities down this path? o Start conversations. find existing resources. build partnerships. experiment. energise supporters. not just fact gathering, build allies.

Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10

We’ve had success with asset-mapping in small towns throughout the region, which also mobilizes volunteers (to supplement the short-term orientation of politicians, businesses and grant-makers). Early victories is definitely the place to start, but large, visible projects (parks, building renovations) provide lasting examples. See examples on our website at 17. Raising the profile of local economy issues - how? o Requires more elbow grease, boots on the pavement, debunk myths! o Our Strong Towns Curbside Chat program can be found on our website, There is a link to the Chat program right on the top menu bar. -Chuck Marohn o People need to be encouraged to think about “What is an Economy for Anyway? o Bruce form Burlington  community generated strategic economic plan - having people talk frankly, looked at jobs and people. created trade groups, neighborhood business areas, providing loan capital/advice, resources, provided a range of services to the business community, find out what people want and give it to them!”  create a plan and then follow it!  Bruce said that when you help the local businesses, they become your ally. AMEN! So many communities today try to get that new business that will add 25 jobs. If you focus on growing those 25 jobs in your existing businesses, you will be more effective and pull closer as a community in the process. Our existing businesses are the key to success. -Chuck Marohn 18. Much of the discussion has focused on businesses. Are there good examples of successful local initiatives that include a strong consumer/customer-oriented buy local component? Wolf Naegeli, Foundation for Global Sustainability, Knoxville, TN. 19. We are teaching farmers to network in the Champlain Islands. We aren’t quite ready for a food hub but are moving in that direction. Farmers are independant so this is a challenge! 20. Would all communities take the same trajectory to achieve local robustness/resilince? I live in Saratoga Springs, and our tourism industry, race track, and Global Foundries Nanolab (largest construction project in the country) make us rife with external inputs. What about sister cities co-mentoring where cities/communities with same circumstances could better help each other than a one size fits all approach. --Jim Zack • Absolutely not. Each community is very different and the approach each will take has to be different. Interesting to note that our current federal/state approach is very homogeneous. It is not working. The solution here has to be customized to each locality. Great question. Chuck Marohn

Resources: Projects, Additional Reading, Great Examples, that you recommend   • General Local Economies Resources: o Green Candidate for NYS Governor, Howie Hawkins’s review of Going Local! by Michael H. Shuman:

Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10

Visual depiction of local economics from the UK-based New Economics Foundation (NEF), likening local economies to buckets: o First post on Local Economies form CommunityMatters10 o Center for Rural Entrepreneurship, - great resources! o Surdna Foundation’s Strong Local Economies Funding Area: o Yes magazine: Economic Gardening: o Growing Local Economies, - resources on economic gardening o Small  Business  Administration’s  report  to  President  Bush  in  2006  -­‐  detailing   Economic  Gardening  practices Local Currency programs: o article about Vermont programs; o Ithaca Hours: o BerkShares (Berkshires):; Local Food Programs: o Local Food o Farm to Table Co-Op, Montana/North Dakota: o New Orleans Farm and Food Network: o Breaking New Grounds Local Energy Programs: o Acorn Energy Co-op, Addison Cty, VT o Co-Op Power, MA/VT: o Baltimore Biomass: o Windustry (community wind power):

Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10


(from Chris Markuson)

How can CommunityMatters continue to support this conversation? More Techniques and Tactics   • structured round table • surface problems and develop constructive ways to solve them • workshop for our regional planning agency in Southeastern Massachusetts? Carol Bragg • learn from other people • crowdsourcing solutions • models • what do you do next? • data base solutoins • projects that are working • reaching out to government and elected officials Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10

• • • • • • • • • •

co-mentoring - for support for cities to go through the process together - bounce ideas off each other conference calls share resourcing and conversations mentoring from each other weekly or monthly call - adds a sense of urgency and responsibility a list of mentors for communities opportunities to inspire communities to get started weekly podcast/video Check out the Strong Towns Podcast -Chuck Marohn Reach out to government and elected officials, e.g., through ICMA, which recently published a couple of articles on economic gardening.

Local Economies Conference Call Notes 11/11/10

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