Germany Kent once said, "We are all on the road to success. Some people just act like they want it more than others."
It is rare that I visit a community where "roads" are not a hot topic. Every community believes it has the worst roads in the state or even the country. When someone makes a "roads or potholes" post on social media, it is sure to contain one of the longest strings of comments that week. Suffice it to say, roads are usually a topic that brings out the passion in everyone.
Not long ago, I saw on social media a post about how bad the roads were in a particular community. As predictable, dozens of comments followed, all chiming in with comments mirroring the original author of the post. Ironically, in the very next post, one of the commenters on the previous roads post was indicating how he or she was looking for things to do that upcoming weekend and thought of going to a community 45 minutes away for dinner, shopping, and maybe a show. Others from the previous "roads post" chimed in with like sentiments.
The answer, while simple, is not very well known. In many states, fixing the roads within the state or within the communities comes down to a very basic equation. The equation is this. The funds used to repair and maintain roads typically come out of the sales taxes generated in those communities, counties, and states. As goes the sales tax revenues, so goes the road upkeep -- nothing more, nothing less. Yes, the allocation of road funds is subject to debate within local governments; balancing the need for police and fire protection and so forth is never easy. But it is still very basic, spend local, improve your roads. Spend out of town, pave the roads where you are spending your money.
Want better roads, find ways to spend more dollars locally. When we factor in the 3-times compounding impact of locally spent dollars, the impact is huge. If each resident in a community of 20,000 people spent just $25 additional dollars locally each month, that would equate to an additional $18,000,000 circulating through the community each year. And, in a community with a 10% local sales tax, that is $1,800,000 additional dollars for police, fire, and roads -- not to mention how many jobs that will help to save or create. Certainly, there is a little more to it than this simple example, but the point remains -- want better roads, spend more locally!
There is a catch. Most of us aren't wired in such a way to be constantly thinking about spending locally or building our internal local DNA. With that being the case, we really can't place the blame on the residents for not spending enough locally. The blame lies with the community leaders in that they are failing to educate the community about this critical component needed to have a successful community.
City leaders, chambers, main streets, media, and others should constantly be educating 24/7, year-round. Studies indicate a person must hear a marketing message at least seven times before it really begins to resonate internally. Most convey this message once or twice and believe the job is complete. Nothing is further from the truth -- the job has only just begun.
Every community must begin communicating more effectively. Every community must begin to market the various messages that are needed to change the mindset of each resident. Every community must start thinking about how it can encourage business growth. After all, that is the foundation of your sales tax dollars. Communities that communicate a strong local message, are business-friendly and work to grow their business base have a chance to survive. Those unwilling or unable to do those simple things are simply biding their time on the road to oblivion.
Let me close with a quote by Oscar Bimpong: "Where you are coming from doesn't matter but where you are going does. Hence look forward and not backward. Your eyes are placed in front of you for a reason.
Your eyes only look backward for special references. Keep your eyes on the road." May each of us choose to keep our eyes on the path of success as we build better communities and roads.
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John Newby is a nationally recognized publisher, community, chamber, business and media strategic consultant and speaker. His "Building Main Street, not Wall Street" column runs in more than 60 communities around the country. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists community leaders, businesses and local media in building synergies and creating more vibrant communities. He can be reached at [email protected]