Chasing unicorns is not a good economic development strategy


Tech companies are dazzling. Especially if you’re working on economic development in a small or mid-sized city.

I hear from a lot of local leaders that they want their city to become a tech hub. I get it: tech is booming, and recruiting a startup or the next HQ can seem like an easy solution to economic woes. Tech is a big pie and it seems like there’s more than enough for everyone. Why shouldn’t your community get a piece?

Yet not every city in the country should start by trying to be a tech hub. Your city probably has something more unique—and more valuable—to contribute. And that is the place to start.

When communities focus solely on recruitment they often lose sight of the economic assets they already have. The best industries for your region are going to grow out of the resources and skills already at work in your community right now. Yes, these business will use technology. But technology may be a tool for growth, not the starting place. And these businesses will showcase to the rest of the entrepreneurial world why your town is the best for business.

This approach still requires innovation. Get proactive and invest in your existing community of entrepreneurs. Encourage small businesses as they get started, and support more established ones as they begin to scale. Create places and spaces where small business owners can come together, learn from one another, and collaborate. These are the strategies that help communities stand out from the crowd.

Knoxville, Tennessee, for example, brings together local production businesses through the Mayor’s Makers Council and an annual event called the Maker City Summit. The local partners offer small business boot camps designed specifically help product-based businesses get off the ground, and they created a beautiful online directory to help people everywhere discover the businesses based in Knoxville. Now word is spreading that Knoxville is a great place for business owners and entrepreneurship is growing.

There are entrepreneurs, business developers, and small-scale manufacturers in your community already who are poised to become the economic engine you’re looking for—they might just need some help to get there. Let’s invest in our own, show the world we mean business, and then create great places for all our businesses to thrive.

Recast City helps local leaders understand how to do just that.

Are you ready to start? Let’s have a quick chat and see if it’s a fit.