Expert Tips for Covering Localist Movements

by August 19, 2016

Chances are, you have a Local First or similar movement in your area, designed to build more vibrant communities and foster local economic development.

Kimber Lanning, founder and executive director of Local First Arizona, works extensively with Arizona businesses, but also attends many national events to educate others about the relationship between local businesses and their communities.

Here are few of the the resources Lanning recommended for covering the localist movement in your area.

Look into APA qualifications

The American Planning Association is a useful resource for those who want to look into the defined characteristics and guidelines that make a specific neighborhood great. On the website, you can easily find these clear-cut guidelines that address neighborhoods, public spaces and streets.

One of these guidelines is to define the demographics, such as age, in each neighborhood. Take millennials, those ranging in age from 18-34, for example.

“The American Planning Association made the case that millennials want to live in areas that are more vibrant, building a case that the way to get there is to nurture entrepreneurs,” Lanning said.

The APA recognizes these areas each year on its Great Places in America List. See which areas in your state made the list and talk with local community members and businesses to see what they’re doing to create a lasting impact on their city.

Find out which business owners are doing adaptive reuse in your city

The Adaptive Reuse Program, started by Lanning in Phoenix in 2008, takes existing buildings built prior to 2000 and enables them to be renovated for new uses.

“We’ve found that building around older buildings [leads] to things like more businesses per block and higher rates of employment,” Lanning said.

The program, which has now expanded nationally to include cities like Los Angeles and Dallas, provides financial incentives that a business can use towards its commercial plan review and permit fees.

Take a look at some of the buildings in your community that may have taken advantage of an adaptive-reuse program. The warehouse converted into a restaurant or old church transformed into a coffee shop are just a few examples. Profile the owners of these businesses and find out why they chose to participate in the program. Find out if adaptive reuse pays for local businesses. And if your city doesn’t currently have the program, find out why.

You can also look at reports such as Older, Smaller, Better, which addresses the role older buildings play in sustainable city development.

Cover historic preservation

The National Trust for Historic Preservation works to protect local historic sites around the country that have had a substantial impact on the nation’s history. The organization lists historic sites and hotels that could impact the local tourism and hospitality industries in your community.

The website also features a map that identifies national buildings and neighborhoods in your area that could ignite a story idea.

Reach out to the proprietors of the sites or local companies–restaurants, hotels and more–that attract tourism business. Ask them about the impact of these historic attractions on their local economy.

Also look into what buildings in your area are at risk for teardown, whether fundraising and planning efforts are being made to prevent this action from occurring and what new businesses might replace them.