John Newby: Change requires effective communication

John Newby

"If you don't like change, you are going to enjoy irrelevance even less."

— U.S. Army Gen. (Ret.) Eric Shinseki

When we ask people what Truly Local means, we get varied responses, but invariably, most say that it is shopping local.

While shopping local is certainly a component of being Truly Local, I would suggest that it is much more that just shopping local. In fact, the shopping component only makes up 10% to 20% of the Truly Local DNA needed in a community to become an economic force from which the community can prosper and grow.

Let me explain. First, let’s quickly discuss shopping. Yes, shopping local is part of the Truly Local DNA, but understand that not all shopping local is created equal. When one shops at a locally owned and locally operated business, it has three to seven times the local impact compared with shopping at a big-box store, chain or online, where the owners aren’t local.

We will explain this in greater detail in future columns going into the compounding impact, reinvestment of profits and so forth. Understand that locally owned and locally operated businesses have the ability to impact your economy greater than most will ever imagine.

Do you realize that not all economic development has the same impact on your community? There are certain types of economic development that not only return a far greater return on investment but that will spur outside and private investment dollars at a much higher rate than any other economic investment. Future columns will touch on where and how to invest your city development dollars most efficiently.

Do we understand the devastating impact when a community loses its media base? Your local newspaper is your community’s ambassador to the outside world. If it were to disappear, who would tell your story and promote your town to the world?

A recent Notre Dame study showed that where newspapers have gone out of business, the cost of local government grows in excess of 30% within five years. Not only that, but when communities become what is referred to as news deserts (those without a newspaper or voice), that business declines, fewer people vote and civic involvement dwindles. We will discuss this in future columns.

Regardless of whether you have a small or large tourism base, there are simple ways to double down on this base. Nearly every town can create some sort of tourism, and those with ample tourism can grow that substantially with simple tactics and strategies. Those will be discussed in future columns as well.

Most city and community governments will agree that the Truly Local mentality is critical to their growth and future. However, did you know that most governments, while with the best intentions, have changeable laws, regulations and procedures that actually harm their own efforts? We will discuss how local governments can make minor adjustments and stimulate their communities without spending a dime more. We will discuss a simple method that every community can employ that will send hundreds of thousands, if not millions of new dollars circulating through their community without anyone having to spend a nickel more than they do now.

Does your community need job growth? Are your children leaving for college, never to return other than for visits home? We will discuss ways your community can employ tactics that drive innovation, entrepreneurship and job growth as well as quality of life that will tackle these issues head on. While we intuitively understand that the arts, music and entertainment are vital to the Truly Local mentality, we will discuss ways that your community can use those resources to a greater advantage. We will show examples of what others are doing.

As they say, the greatest form of flattery is to not to reinvent the wheel but to copy programs that have shown success. In addition to the above and much more, this weekly column is all about vision, leadership and excitement. Communities must change; employing the same traditional strategies only spell doom. With the influx of big boxes, chains and, of course, online offerings, communities that don’t use new techniques will fail. We are excited to bring you weekly ideas on how your community with the assistance of your local newspaper cannot just survive, but thrive in 2020 and beyond.

JOHN NEWBY is the author of the "Building Main Street, Not Wall Street " column that is dedicated to helping communities and local media companies combine synergies to not just survive but thrive in a world where their “Truly Local” identity is being lost to Amazon, chains and others. He can be reached at

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