New Year’s Resolution Breakthroughs

Happy New Year from PLACE Consulting

As I reflect on what PLACE has accomplished in 2015, I am proud to say that our work helped 17 communities and organizations make improvements that will allow them to better meet the needs of their members, residents and customers. We spoke at the National Main Street conference in Atlanta, the International Downtown Association conference in San Francisco and the Virginia Community Capital’s (VCC) Learning Exchange in Richmond. We hosted networking events and seminars in Chicago, traveled to New York to learn best practices and create an exchange between peer institutions, and were pleased to be one of the mentor sites for LISC Chicago’s newly-launched Business District Leadership program.  

Especially memorable from 2015 was the opportunity in December that I had to be a panelist for VCC’s Learning Exchange, along with futurist Thomas Frey from the DaVinci Institute, and Basil Gooden the Director of the Virginia USDA. Basil spoke of the opportunities that rural America has to help solve the pressing problems of our day, such as clean energy development, trained workforces and affordable housing. My task was to talk about cities as “communities of the future,” a topic that’s easy for me because I believe that strong cities are the key to a safe, prosperous and healthy future for our country. One of the trends I highlighted included the changing nature of jobs as we move away from people working for one company to people being independent contractors and receiving income from a variety of sources. The growth of ventures such as AirBnB, Uber, Lyft and Rover demonstrate this trend.  The upside to these new jobs is that they connect people directly to one another and invite relationships to develop outside of the usual social boundaries. With AirBnB, for example, renters often stay in areas outside the downtown CBD, showing them what everyday life is like for people in their host communities, and allowing them to spend their tourist dollars in neighborhoods. (Have you tracked who is offering rooms in your community?) A challenge I spoke about is the difficulty we all have in adopting new technology, and the special challenges facing our municipalities in upgrading technology to increase efficiencies and effectiveness, as well as to be more transparent and citizen-friendly.

As I look to 2016, I’m reminded of Thomas Frey’s story about annual tech conferences. They often lack a watershed technological breakthrough or advancement, but they always showcase the many technological improvements from the previous version. For example, when the first smartphone was introduced, it had 5 sensors in it, and today, the average smartphone contains 21 sensors, a four-fold increase. That resonated with me as I thought about how we can all approach our work for this next year. We know that grandiose, sweeping New Year’s resolutions rarely succeed. But what if our resolutions were of the iterative kind, the way in which each version of the smartphone gets better? With that in mind, what small changes can you make in the way you manage your business district, your organization, your members, your Board, your staff, your boss, yourself? What improvements can you make, on the small scale, that if executed, would have big impacts in 12 months? I encourage you to make those kinds of resolutions this year, and track your progress. We’ll be doing the same here at PLACE – making small changes, like regular newsletters! – that hopefully have big impacts when 2016 comes to a close. We look forward to spending the year with you!