In 2012, let’s dedicate ourselves to a “maker” system of economics that’s based on creating new value, not trading old value. Let’s focus on those who develop tools within our community to replace consumption as an end in itself, and create a manifesto that guides city contracts and organizations, including the Chamber of Commerce, to seek the participation of local creative entrepreneurs first.
To encourage more entrepreneurs, the city should make it easier to launch a business. Navigating our building and fire codes and permitting costs is daunting and can result in a heavier-than-anticipated debt load, especially for manufacturers.
Leaders must recognize the arts and cultural events as part of economic development. Our officials need to embrace the vitality of our community’s creative sector and pursue more strategic planning and top-down directives aimed at involving small, creative businesses and grass-roots cultural innovators. As economic drivers, outdoor cultural events can be encouraged, not just managed or kept from causing harm. “Asheville is filled with thousands of creative entrepreneurs whose vital energy is, as yet, unharnessed. Let's bring that to bear on our economic woes,” urges Kitty Love, executive director of the Asheville Area Arts Council.
In 2010, WNC consumers bought $62 million worth of local food, the Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project estimates. As a top food destination, Asheville is at the center of this market. In 2012, city leaders should be seen at the tailgate markets and farm tours. They can lead by example, choosing local food and food providers for conferences and events, and buying community-supported agriculture subscriptions for themselves and their employees. By promoting the Asheville City Market’s ability to accept EBT payments and encouraging area schools to buy locally grown food, they would show that they understand the critical link between our food and our community’s health.
Let’s recognize the deep connection between quality public schools and a thriving economy. “Asheville City Schools are the city's schools, and we must invest in our urban public schools to keep families within the city limits who will live, work and shop in our urban centers,” notes Leah Ferguson, co-director of the Asheville City Schools Foundation.
It’s time to join the ever-increasing number of cities (including Los Angeles) that have taken a stand against corporate personhood, adopting resolutions declaring that money isn’t speech and corporations aren’t people.
These are just a few key issues. Others include banking locally and having control over our own broadband fiber network. Ultimately, we hope 2012 will be a pivotal year for our city leaders to embrace our widely accepted community campaign, promoting the key role of locally owned businesses in our economy’s vitality.