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Social Media and Community Economic Development

Posted: November 7, 2014

Start a community conversation about potential economic development with a community FaceBook page or another social media format.

I have been fascinated by a community FaceBook page.  Residents of at least four municipalities in one school district share all kinds of questions and information: When are school photos coming home?  What’s the football game score?  Does anyone recognize this stray cat?  We have a two BR apartment available for rent.  When does borough council meet?  Who do I complain to about noise?

Evan economic development has been a topic.  As soon as the Bottom Dollar grocery store chain announced it was going out of business, this page lit up with a lengthy discussion of how the loss of the local store would impact the community. 

Issues of accessibility/walkability, array of products, price and alternatives for grocery shopping headlined the discussion. It could have included loss of jobs, but didn’t this time. 

This store site has been a grocery store of one kind or another for more than 50 years.  I myself as a young woman with little income remember clipping coupons and shopping wisely there years ago.  It is at the edge of an urban residential area, the only grocery store within this municipality.  The term food desert (lack of accessibility to food) was mentioned in the FB conversation.

Before Bottom Dollar made its announcement, this blog was going to focus on the potential for a community FB page to assist in community economic development.  So let me explore that a little now.

A community page on social media could be a place to share information about economic development – available jobs, creating and sustaining small businesses, deciding what kind of community the residents really want.  

Small business owners often are so busy keeping their businesses afloat that they have little time to join community groups such as a service club or even a chamber of commerce.  However, sharing ideas with other entrepreneurs is supportive and valuable.  A mix of social media with real-time meetings can meet a variety of business owners’ needs.

Another role a community page could play is developing a conversation about residents’ dreams for the community. Residents and politicians alike want to increase the tax base, reducing a tax burden on citizens, by encouraging economic development. 

·         Is there a primary business district?  Should there be one?

·         What kinds of businesses should be encouraged to develop? Ones that can supply goods or services needed by other businesses in the region?   What are those other businesses and their needs?

·         How can the community assure its residents have the skills to open and build their own businesses?  Do residents have the skills required for businesses that move into the area?

How does your community use social media to share ideas?