A POSITIVE VIEW OF RURAL: Think Like a Venture Capitalist

When I was speaking about how everyday people can shape the future of their towns, an audience member asked about local governments. How can they survive, even as they need to do more with less money? How do they keep the water flowing and maintain all the other essential services?

It’s a critical question, and one I’d like to hear your ideas on.

My initial suggestion was test big ideas before launching expensive projects. Here’s an article I wrote about using Better Block-style tests before investing in an expensive sidewalk improvement project.

I also talked about doing less that has to be paid for by the local government. Help your people do more themselves. For example, if your locality does the downtown holiday decorations, stop. Crowdsource decorations instead. Get everyone in the community involved. Let them adopt a tree to decorate or a corner or a pole. It won’t be the same, but people will feel so much ownership. You’ll also be building that sense of community connections, as well.

I think the successful local government officials will start thinking of themselves as the venture capitalists of ideas. That is a whole different mindset than control.

Venture capitalists spend a lot of time finding out about every startup they can in their particular area. Local officials can also spend a lot of their time learning what projects are going on out in the community.

Venture capitalists don’t invest in every startup; they look for the ones most likely to succeed and invest there. Local officials can invest their limited resources in only the most promising ideas for the community.

Venture capitalists don’t run the startups, but they often help them make connections to helpful resources, like consultants and bankers. Local officials can help local people connect to the resources they need from other organizations, like training and grant funding.

Venture capitalists don’t try to stop anyone from trying any idea; they are just selective about the ones they choose to get involved with.

The final idea I have is to share more resources between neighboring governments. Why can’t two small towns share a sewer clean-out machine? Why not have an Uber-style sharing program for equipment local governments only need occasionally?

Those were my thoughts. I’d love to hear what you know about how local governments are surviving the challenges.

Keep shaping the future of your town!

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Becky McCray

Becky McCray writes about small business and rural issues, based on her own successes and failures. She and her husband own a small town retail liquor store and cattle ranch.  Learn more at her website.