First Impressions

January 19, 2016

A basic tenet of economic development is that businesses have their choice of location. Another tenet is that the little things matter. While the cost of doing business, talent and tax base, and energy costs are critical, e–v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g is important.

Seemingly small things like the entrance to your community might be a big deal to some making a decision about whether to do business in your area. For both fantastic small communities where entry is typically via vehicle and international business centers where the primary point of entry is by air, this is worth thoughtful examination.

What business leaders see when they enter your community is important. So, first, the basics. Is it clean? Is the grass cut? Do visitors see fresh paint and clean restrooms? Are you showing that you care about the quality of the community?

I get excited when I drive into a small town with fresh flowers and a nice welcome sign along the roadway. I am also impressed upon landing at an airport with signs in multiple languages and advanced technology. As Andy Levine recently described in Forbes, “you can think of an airport as a community’s front door.”

Major financial centers like New York, London, Dubai and Hong Kong announce immediately that they are global centers of commerce. High-tech cities announce their penchant for innovation through the available broadband and by showcasing local innovations. College towns announce their unique talent base and special arts amenities through local art. Small towns all across America announce that they are vibrant and open.

All of these things immediately tell the customer of your area’s values and aspirations. Next time you enter your community, ask yourself if it aligns with the brand you are trying to portray. If not, it’s time to get to work.

NOTE: Port Columbus is undergoing an $80 million renovation and will officially open its doors this spring. We are excited about the physical upgrades, and even more excited about the message that it will send to business visitors and local companies.

-Kenny McDonald