Archive | July, 2012

Amy Cortese: Locavesting

19 Jul

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, generating two out of every three jobs and half of GDP. They also create the foundation for healthy, diverse neighborhoods and strong local economies. Amy Cortese, author of the book, Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From it (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), asks, then, why are we starving these vital enterprises?

Cortese, an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in Business Week, the New York Times, Mother Jones and other publications, argues that a small shift in investment away from multinational corporations toward locally owned enterprises can reap enormous economic and social benefits for individuals, their communities, and the country.

Cortese, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, began her research in the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, which highlighted what she believes is a massive misallocation of capital in this country. As she traveled the country, she saw that not only were people looking for alternatives to the winner-take-all Wall Street system, they were busy creating them. Her book chronicles this vast experiment in citizen finance that is reshaping ideas about investing, economic development and the nature of capitalism.

As our keynote speaker for the Governor’s Awards for Downtown Excellence Gala, Cortese will share examples of local investing in action, and discuss ways in which Downtown Colorado, Inc. can put some of these innovative ideas to work. In addition to models that are currently in use, such as community loan funds, Local Investing Opportunity Networks (LIONs), and direct public offerings, she will discuss the recently signed JOBS Act, which will usher in some of the biggest changes to the nation’s securities laws in eight decades.

In particular, crowdfunding–a method of raising small sums from many investors over the Internet–will open up exciting new possibilities for local investing when it becomes legal next year. Crowdfunding has attracted its fair share of critics, who worry about fraud. But Cortese believes that, at its best, crowdfunding provides an opportunity to bring together local investors and entrepreneurs to create a local financial ecosystem that is arguably safer than the global casino we call the stock market.

Locavesting is a call to rethink the way we invest, so that we support the small businesses that create jobs and healthy, resilient communities. Just as “Buy Local” campaigns have found that a small shift in purchasing from chains to locally owned enterprises can reap outsized benefits for a community, so, too, can a small shift in our investment dollars. “We eat local and buy local, the next frontier is to invest local,” says Cortese.

Amy Cortese, author of Her book, Locavesting: The Revolution in Local Investing and How to Profit From it, is an award-winning journalist and editor who covers topics spanning business, finance, food, wine and environmental issues. Her work has appeared in the the New York Times, New York Times Magazine, New York, Business Week, the Daily News, Portfolio, Mother Jones, Afar, The American, the Daily Beast, Talk, Business 2.0 and Wired, among other publications.


Disaster Recovery Tips for Downtowns and Commerical Districts

13 Jul

A natural disaster can catch a community and their businesses off guard. Below are some tips for community leaders to help businesses rebuild in the aftermath of the Colorado wildfires.

  1. Acknowledge the emotional loss as a community. The stages of disaster recovery are very similar to the stages of Grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. It is important to take time to recognize and cope with the deeply emotional parts of the loss that come along with the obvious financial impact of the disaster. If possible, coordinate with local faith-based and community service organizations to make counseling services easily available to disaster-impacted residents and business owners.
  2. Invite participation and feedback from all community members. In addition to elected officials, business and community leaders, it is important to invite residents, citizens, neighbors and other non-governmental thought leaders into the recovery triage and redevelopment processes early. Key neighborhood association leaders and active citizens often have valuable information about how recovery program processes are really working, where dollars are (or are not) actually flowing and where financial and support service provision could be improved.
  3. Delegate a single spokesperson to avoid confusion and conflicting messages. Streamline your legislative priorities and have one consistent spokesperson making asks to your state and federal legislative delegations. It is much more impactful to ask for funding, support or whatever recovery resources your community needs with one unified voice than to have legislators hear multiple and often conflicting stories.
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help! Chances are another community has faced something similar and those involved in recovery efforts will be willing to help share their best practices and missteps. In the wake of the Cedar Rapids flooding, strong relationships were built with Fargo, ND, and New Orleans, LA, two communities who were also devastated by record flooding. The resources are out there and sometimes other communities are just waiting to be asked for their help.
  5. Don’t neglect those that were not directly impacted by the disaster. It is important to engage and not alienate parts of community that were not disaster-impacted. Encourage the downtown/merchants association or local chamber to create a messaging strategy that emphasizes the reasons why reinvestment in disaster-impacted parts of town are important to the future success and viability of the whole community.
  6. Connect businesses with local resources that can help them to navigate recovery support. Engage your local Small Business Administration (SBA) chapter, community college resources and/or local retired business people to help small business owners navigate the often confusing and complicated paper work that comes along with applying for FEMA, SBA and/or insurance money. Small business owners often don’t have the resources or time to navigate the countless forms required to access disaster recovery monies and consequently opt to close their business or leave money on the table because they are unsure what is available to them.
  7. Acknowledge progress in a respectful manner. It is okay to celebrate milestones and small recovery wins, just make sure to do so in a respectful way that recognizes everyone is not at the same stage of disaster recovery. In Cedar Rapids, we held an event called “Floodstock” on the one-year anniversary of the flood, which included a full day of bands, kids’ activities and a 10k race through flood-impacted areas, with all the proceeds going to flood recovery. The event wasn’t without controversy – some residents said that it was too soon for anything celebratory. However, the few negative comments couldn’t compete with the overwhelming response from the community that a little joy is sometimes needed to continue marching down the long road to recovery.

Vanessa Rogers is an associate of Centro Inc. who specializes in helping communities develop, market, and implement downtown revitalization initiatives with a special focus on strategic plan implementation, communications, marketing and stakeholder engagement.

Profile: Colorado Brick Council

13 Jul

The Colorado Brick Council provides free technical assistance to
communities wanting to achieve high quality development, redevelopment, and preservation.  We believe in the strong correlation between the quality of design and quality of life and support the implementation of policy solutions that generate good design and durable construction. Since we understand that every community is unique, our services are tailored to fit the economic, political, and historical realities of each place.

The Colorado Brick Council has a full time Community Planning
Consultant, who is a member of the American Institute of Certified
Planners (AICP), assisting Colorado communities in achieving their
design goals. Our planner has experience in local government,
specifically the development review process, and is keenly aware of
the opportunities and challenges local governments face when enacting policy solutions that regulate development. For planners interested in affordable, local training, our staff can provide educational sessions for Continuing Maintenance (CM) credit for the AICP certification on a variety of topics free of charge.

To support communities interested in design policy, we help them
explore implementation techniques with examples from our best practice research including local and national case studies. Whether it is starting from scratch or revamping existing regulations, we can draft
design guidelines, architectural standards, and other policies customized to your community. To ensure an effective implementation, we provide training in design review for boards, commissions, council, and staff.

In municipalities that already require, encourage, or incentivize
certain building materials, we provide staff and officials the
information they need to make and support those decisions. From
economic benefits to sustainability features, we provide the
research-based facts to aid decisions about the benefits of quality
design policy.

Additionally, the Colorado Brick Council strives to serve a resource
between all built environment professionals and the masonry industry.
We have access to technical experts in masonry production,
installation, and preservation. Our network can provide access to
technical notes about masonry design and construction, advice on
architectural issues, and ideas for landscape design. Contact us and
we will align your issue with the appropriate resources.

For more information on the Colorado Brick Council, please visit

Victor DREAM Team: A Main Street Candidate’s Story

9 Jul

The Victor DREAM (Downtown Revitalization and Economic Acceleration Movement) Team was activated in November of 2010. Since then, community members, businesses and elected officials have worked together to strengthen and revitalize the community using the Main Street Four-Point Approach.

Victor is the heart of the world’s greatest gold camp, and is one of the last true historic mining towns remaining in the west. The blast-from-the-past museum quality that fills the air in Victor is a result of the local desire to not only preserve the historic town, but also the historic culture as well. The Colorado Main Street Program has provided a framework that also allows community leaders to identify areas for improvement and intentional steps that will improve our town while preserving our indigenous qualities. These qualities create the foundation that makes Victor a unique place to live, work and play.

Through a creative partnership between the Coalition for the Upper South Platte, the Western Hard Rock Watershed Team and the City of Victor, an Americorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) was placed in the community to coordinate DREAM efforts. As a VISTA, Becky Parham provides support to the community and cohesion between the DREAM Team and the City of Victor. After a year and a half of continued DREAM efforts, the city was confident in submitting an application to become a Main Street Candidate.

As a new candidate community, Victor is excited to continue their journey with increased support from DCI and DOLA. There have been several successes as a result from the community revitalization plan and technical assistance from DCI. The city has adopted and is implementing a way-finding plan, and has made initial improvements to the city streetscape and community spaces. Other projects that are being championed by the DREAM Team include the façade improvement program which is driven by the design committee, the Touch of Victor Events that is held monthly, and the implementation of the DREAM Commission which will provide better organizational capacity for the DREAM Team and the City of Victor. Participation in the Main Street Program will continue to equip our community leaders and residents with the tools needed to realize just what the community is capable of, and a place that residents cherish and captivates visitors.

Please visit the City of Victor website to learn more, and follow the DREAM Team’s Progress on Facebook.