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Your answer to an important question

Avatar photo by Casey Woods, Executive Director | June 1, 2017
Last week, we asked you a question: “what type of city would you like to live in?”  To contextualize the question, we gave you four different options that we classified as W, O, R and S types of cities.  Before we get into your selection, and what that selection means for Emporia, take a chance to review the different city types:
“W City” is a worker city.  People in W City work in factories and other production facilities owned by people that live in another community.  Because owners live in another community, W City citizens strive for middle class status, but have a hard time obtaining significant wealth.  Infrastructure demands are significant to support facilities, and recruitment of businesses typically includes tax abatement and cash incentives.
“O City” is an owner city.  People in O City own production operations in other cities, and have owner operated businesses within O City.  Owner based cities are typically a little denser, and create professional jobs with higher potential incomes.  O City focuses on helping businesses that start in the city (local ownership) grow.  Growth is limited to the rate in which locally owned businesses can start and sustain.
“R City” is a raw material city.  People in R City produce raw materials that are then shipped out to W City for creation of finished goods.  R City has a variable income depending on the demand for raw materials.  Because income can fluctuate with market demand, a “boom or bust” mentality can exist within business availability and incomes.  Raw materials can be finite, so the impact of raw material sales upon R City’s economy is limited to their supply.
“S City” is a city focused on social services.  Dollars collected from taxes and donations go to organizations that employ individuals to serve those impacted by a variety of societal issues.  Support for entities in S City is constrained by dollars available, but robust social systems can attract residents that may act as unskilled workforce.  Competition for dollars can lead to governance by emergency which may limit long term wealth development.
Now for the results: 100% of those responding to the survey (and 100% of committee members responding to the earlier focus group test) ranked the “O City” as the type of city they would like to live in.  People inherently saw the value of living in a community where locals owned businesses, property, and developments.  All other community types were ranked fairly closely together in a very distant second.  Now that we know what we want- what does that mean???  Do our actions, priorities and strategies reinforce what we say we want, or do they support different city types?
Cities are complex systems of the different types of communities listed above, and all of the community types can play a role in the creation of a holistic town.  This exercise was initiated to determine prioritization and proportions of community types in the creation of our ideal town.
Local ownership has a residual positive impact on social services through donations, resources through shortened supply chains and worker communities through a higher quality of life.  Most of the foundations we have locally are a product of local ownership.  The unique festivals we have in the community are a result of local ownership and local business involvement.  The unique local business elements we have in Emporia are what separate us from “anywhere USA”.
When looking at city/county expenditures, local excitement, citizen support and directed spending- are we actively trying to create an ownership community?  Are we supporting local developers above and beyond out-of-town interests?  Are we supporting local businesses above and beyond the “chain” name?  Are we advocating (showing excitement) for those unique, local businesses, events and activities that entice out-of-town visitors and support local pride?  Do we understand the direct benefits to our tax base and donation coffers that locally owned systems provide our region?
Lets make sure that our goals align with our resource allocation and community culture.  Emporia has worked really hard to become a “special place” through the creation of unique local offerings.  We can become a community “just like everybody else” by having offerings that are the same as “everybody else”, but then why would anyone want to come here?  Take ownership of your community by supporting an ownership community!  Support those things that make Emporia unique, and create an ownership community in the process!

About the Author

Casey Woods, Executive Director

Before accepting the director position in March of 2009, Casey worked in both retail and agricultural jobs in the family businesses. A lifelong resident of the Emporia Area, Casey was a ten year volunteer for Emporia Main Street prior to his appointment as director. During that time he served as the board president and chair of the Economic Vitality Committee.

Casey also serves as a partner in PlaceMakers, LLC, a consulting firm that routinely works with both large and small communities, and their businesses, to promote sustainable economic growth through community and economic development practices. Casey consults with businesses, organizations and communities to understand their market capacity and fill vacant spaces. He has been involved in two projects that included crowdfunding as a part of their overall business funding strategies, Radius Brewing and Twin Rivers Winery & Gourmet Shoppe.