I want to tell you three stories that people told me last week.
Kat Long told me about Ponca City, Oklahoma (population 25,000). They have lots of good news, lots of positive developments, but feel like the national drumbeat of bad news tends to drown it out. To work against that, Kat plans to feature local business owners in their annual economic development conference. She wants to let the actual business owners tell their version of the local news.
And Gayle Machetta (who I’ve known for something close to two decades) told me about Henryetta, Oklahoma (population 5,500). They hear from folks who “think this is a dying town” because that’s what they hear. They may be front-line people in minimum wage jobs, or people who are just going about their everyday lives assuming that it’s true. Gayle is collecting the numbers. She sat down with other bank officers and added up the cash investment that has gone in to their business district, block by block. They added up construction, remodeling, new businesses, new signs, and even removing dilapidated structures. Then they got counting the $22 million the glass plant has pledged, plus…. There was a lot more, but you get the idea. Gayle isn’t going to keep this news to herself.
“Any one project is slightly noticeable, but when you lump them all together and remind folks this is money invested in the community which turns over at least 5-7 times, that’s a pretty good chunk of change—DURING THE RECESSION,” Gayle said. “We’re gonna put it out there that our community is INVESTED in our business owners, and their investment is greatly appreciated and now recognized.”
And then Rob Hatch told me about Wyndham, Maine (population 17,000). They have a new newspaper in town. Like, a real newsPAPER. Rob asked the publisher what was going to make it different. She told him it will focus entirely on the good news. She’ll be telling the positive stories that the media “isn’t supposed” to cover. It’s called the Eagle. That’s the school mascot, but also a pretty good name for a positive news newspaper.
Three very positive views of rural from three very different towns. And three examples of changing the tone in your town.
What about your town? What are you doing to change the tone and spread a positive view?
PS You sent really interesting responses to the Placemaking topic last week. I’ve shared two on Small Biz Survival, including Michael Stumpf’s thoughts on why his dog makes him a better planner.