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Economic health gets a local focus

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‘Going Local’ keynote and workshop schedule

The schedule for the Michael Shuman workshop is as follows:

Friday, Jan. 16, 7:30 p.m., Glen Helen Building: “Going Local in Yellow Springs,” keynote presentation by economist Michael Shuman. Shuman will cover basic principles of his local economic development strategy, plus his experience with other communities. The public is invited, and a question and answer session will follow the keynote.

Saturday, Jan. 17, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Mills Lawn gym: Workshop with Shuman.

The event begins from 9:30–10:45 with a leakage analysis report and discussion, focusing on local opportunities for import substitution. It will be followed by a group discussion on the most critical “leaks” along with possible business opportunities.

Beginning at 11 a.m., participants will brainstorm in small groups related to sectors of the local economy, including public policy, local purchasing, community planning, entrepreneurship and business partnerships. These discussions will continue throughout the day, with a break for lunch at noon.

Sunday, Jan. 18, 10–11:30 a.m., Mills Lawn gym: Small group discussions -continue.

Sunday, Jan. 18, 11:45 a.m.–1 p.m., Mills Lawn gym: Meta-business discussion and action plan, workshop conclusion. Shuman will present various ideas for revenue-generating meta-businesses, after which participants will identify the most promising opportunities and strategically plan their implementation. The event will conclude with a summary of ideas and actions generated.

Sunday, Jan. 18, 1–2:30 p.m., Mills Lawn gym: Reception. An open reception for the community and summary for those unable to attend the workshop.

Organizers of an upcoming economic development workshop with nationally-known economist Michael Shuman hope that the event sparks, as well as specific actions, new thinking about the best ways to create a sustainable local economy.

“My hope is that this will change the conversation in town,” said Dimi Reber of the Smart Growth Task Force, which is sponsoring the event.

The workshop, “Going Local,” will take place Friday through Sunday, Jan. 16–18. The public is invited to the keynote address on Friday evening, and to a closing reception Sunday afternoon. All interested persons are invited to take part in the workshop, which runs all day Saturday and Sunday morning, although organizers especially invite large and small business owners, educators, those who are considering starting a business and those interested in economic development. A donation of $25 for the workshop is requested.

According to a press release, workshop participants will “explore how to develop new (and expand already existing) local businesses, grow and support new local entrepreneurs, mobilize local finance and spearhead “local first” campaigns so that the Yellow Springs economy can become more secure and sustainable.”

What’s new about the workshop is the local focus of Shuman, who wrote The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses are Beating the Global Competition and Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in the Global Age.

While traditional thinking on economic development emphasizes attracting large employers to a town to create jobs, Shuman advocates a much different approach, which he calls “re-localization.”

Re-localization begins with shopping local, Shuman said in a January 2008 interview with the News. Shopping local benefits communities because dollars spent in local stores have a “multiplier effect,” in that those dollars then circulate in the community. For example, according to a 2003 study in Austin, Texas, dollars spent in a local bookstore benefitted the community three times as much as dollars spent in a chain bookstore.

But Shuman’s approach also goes far beyond shopping local, he said in the 2008 interview. His work with communities begins with a “leakage analysis,” in which he identifies ways that local people have to go out of town to fill their needs; he then helps civic leaders and entrepreneurs find ways to either begin new businesses to fill those needs, or to enhance existing ones.

For example, in St. Lawrence County, N.Y., leaders realized they were sending hundreds of thousands of dollars outside their community yearly by purchasing electricity from a global corporation. They developed a plan to supply their own electricity with biomass fuels, a complex solution that involved creating their own municipal electricity company, encouraging farmers to grow the necessary biomass crops, starting a company to turn the crops into pellets, encouraging local heating companies to sell biomass furnaces, and encouraging large energy users, such as a local university, to purchase the furnaces and use the locally-produced energy. Five years after the project began, the various components were in place, and the community had come together around the effort, according to St. Lawrence County civic leader Jim Shuman (no relation to Michael) in an interview last year.

His approach is the opposite of a quick-fix, Michael Shuman said in the 2008 interview. It takes time and a high amount of community collaboration for different segments of a community to fill local needs, he said, and for those reasons he believes re-localization is far more sustainable to a town than bringing in a large outside business. Those outside businesses can then leave, as they often do, and they also have less stake and commitment to the community.

Shuman’s approach fits well into the traditions and values of Yellow Springs, workshop supporters believe.

“This perspective says that we can grow and develop in ways that fit our values, in a way that’s exciting”, said Village Council member Lori Askeland. “This can be empowering.”

Because re-localization emphasizes shopping in town, it also inspires communities to become more walkable and bikeable, according to Reber, who sees one advantage of the upcoming workshop as bringing together two groups that don’t often see their common interests, those who promote business development and those who support environmental sustainability.

Organizers of the local workshop hope that Shuman can spark creative thinking in the village during challenging economic times.

“Given the very difficult state of the world economy, it will be important for Yellow Springers to pull together and support our businesses as we seek to build a more sustainable local economy that creates jobs for our citizens and meets more of our needs locally,” said Village Council President Judith Hempfling in the press release.

For information about the workshop or to register, contact Megan Quinn Bachman at 767-2161 or Dimi Reber at 767-1078. Organizers encourage interested persons to register by this Saturday, Jan. 10.

The Smart Growth Task Force has, for the past three years, sponsored educational events around issues related to sustainable and environmentally-sensitive economic growth. Its members currently are Reber, Len Kramer, Gina Paget, Bachman, Rick Walkey, Ali Thomas and Marianne Whelchel.


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