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Taking the Field: Now, Here We Grow 

By Paul Meyer, NCLM Executive Director

At this year’s Town Hall Day, those attending got an early look at a video that will be featured as part of our "Here We Grow" campaign to showcase the investments that cities and towns are making to help businesses grow, create jobs and enhance residents quality of life. The video (see at our You Tube channel here) features four business owners from different cities and towns across the state discussing how they have worked hand-in-hand with municipal officials and how locally-funded or directed infrastructure projects have benefitted their businesses.

The positive reception that the video received was exciting, and the video itself underscored the theme of the day: Making legislators aware of the many ways that each of your towns and cities contributes to the larger success of the state’s economy. It’s a message that we here at the League believe is often missed as stories are reported about the latest brew pub to come to downtown or the latest pharmaceutical maker announcing an expansion.

So, the larger public learns that New Belgium Brewing Co. is opening a brewery in Asheville and that Sierra Nevada is doing likewise outside of Hendersonville; what they may not see is how critical city investments were in providing the amenities that made the area a great cultural fit for those businesses. Or, hundreds of more jobs are created when Danish drugmaker Novo Nordisk announces a huge expansion in Clayton; lost in the story is how the town’s strong working relationship with the company played a key role in the decision.

It is time to tell those stories, and that’s what the "Here We Grow" campaign is about. One of the goals that came out of our Vision 2030 strategic planning process is that municipalities demonstrate the value that they add to the community’s quality of life. To achieve that goal, we know that League staff has to help cities and towns engage citizens using modern communication technology.

This media campaign is intended to empower League members to do just that. Soon, you will see the campaign’s website, HereWeGrowNC.com, which will serve as its basic foundation, its infrastructure. The site will feature a toolkit for League members – with PowerPoints, videos that can be downloaded, flyers and other information – to allow you to actively make the case about what your individual city or town is doing to promote economic growth.

That type of toolkit is not a new idea, but it is something that we hope will prove valuable to help tell your story. What is new and different is a crowdsourcing component that will allow cities and towns to post their own stories on the site, and then easily promote them via social media. Doing so, we believe the effectiveness of the campaign will grow, as you help to drive your residents to the site to see that these successes are not just happening in your town or city, but that there are similar success stories happening in municipalities all across North Carolina.

The point here, as entrepreneurship expert Christopher Gergen discusses in this issue (See How to Drive Innovation in Any Community, pp. 12-15), is to create and promote a narrative that allows cities and towns to build upon their successes – attracting more capital and more talent – building what he calls an "entrepreneurial ecosystem."

Also, by instilling in the public consciousness how valuable the contributions of cities and towns to the larger economy, we can help preserve municipal authority so that you can keep making these successes happen.