Transforming an appliance warehouse into a combination co-work space, performance venue, art gallery, and cafe takes more than just construction chops. It takes vision, hard work, and a deep and personal belief that this place matters.
Rami Sadek had that belief front and center when he created LangLab in South Bend, Indiana. A project like this is about more than taking advantage of a market opportunity, or putting a building to “highest and best use.” As Sadek explained to the South Bend Tribune, “It’s magic.”
And it truly is. You can feel it as soon as you walk in the door. Now LangLab has become a creativity hub in South Bend, thanks in part to that magic.
People like Sadek are what make projects like this come to life, and there is an important lesson here for anyone working in local economic development: find the people who love your place, and do everything you can to support them.
And they need your support.
This action can take many forms. You can create a microloan program or vacant property redevelopment incentive. You can fund popup concerts or vendors nearby to help drive foot traffic. You can create competitive micro-grants for any residents ready to bring people together and lead—or any other number of programs to help that magic begin.
Supporting your local champions also means giving them a place at the table and listening to their perspective on the direction your city should go. Find people who represent diverse populations, who believe in the long-term success of your neighborhood and city. Consider different generations of people—younger or older, anyone who is a connector across communities and influence. If there is no room for them at the existing table of decision-makers, consider building a new one. Your economy will be that much richer.
How do you find these people? Start by with coffees, conversations, and building relationships with people who can connect you with people. That might be faith leaders, small business owners, people who run a small business program, or someone at the local college or high school.
For Sadek, the next step is to build on LangLab’s success with new investment in space for small business in partnership with another city champion through Vested Interest. He’s not just creating this for himself: he’s out to help other small businesses (including small-scale manufacturers) gain access to space and resources and to grow into community connectors in their own right.
This is one of the greatest gifts any community can have: when people get together and say, “We believe in this community.” It’s a kind of magic. Look for it and help it thrive.
Ready to build your champions? Let’s talk!