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Stimulating Local Economy: Know Your Numbers

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March 26, 2019

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today we're talking about stimulating your local economy. Part one, knowing your numbers. Hello, I'm Amy Myers, and welcome to Farm and Family. Today we're speaking with Rachael Carter, Mississippi State University Extension Community Development Specialist.

Rachael, the town I live in is kind of becoming a dump. Especially the roads just outside the city. There are old abandoned buildings, some shady stuff is going on, like people are stealing, there's vandalism, and property values in those areas are super low. What's wrong?

Rachael Carter: Amy, it sounds like you need some community development assistance.

Amy Myers: So for example, if we just bulldoze over all those old abandoned buildings and build something else new in their place, that'll make it all better, right?

Rachael Carter: No. Hold on. Let's not go demolishing old buildings, especially if they could have some historic feature to them. One of the trends today is to turn places like that into some kind of a classic facility that can stand the test of time, that has some character.

The first step that you need to think about though, to improve the local economy, is to think about maybe a needs assessment. Figure out what's going on.

Amy Myers: So, what is a needs assessment?

Rachael Carter: A needs assessment can be done in a million different ways, and it's really just a tool to kind of figure out where you are as a community, what your problems are, and start getting a general direction for what needs to be done to get better.

First, it's very important to make sure your information sources are accurate and objective. You also must support the needs of all different types of people. There are several ways to conduct a needs assessment.

The first one that comes to mind is creating a focus group. A focus group is a group of people from a variety of different backgrounds, ages, walks of life, having different jobs, demographics, different occupations, getting them together and finding out what they think about the situation.

Amy Myers: What about surveys?

Rachael Carter: Surveys is another way to conduct a needs assessment. This is something that can be done in more of an anonymous way, and you can ask people in your community questions, you can ask business owners questions to find out what their interests are, what they see as opportunities in the community.

Amy Myers: Can you do that like on Facebook and stuff?

Rachael Carter: Surveys can be conducted in a lot of different ways. They can be mailed out to residence, you can have them in public spaces and hand them out at a big group event, or you can conduct them online with an online link, and you can share it on Facebook, especially if you have a community following on your Facebook page.

Amy Myers: What about existing data?

Rachael Carter: Existing data is another way of kind of getting an economic snapshot of what's going on in your community, and that's data that's already available either online, or in a book, or in a news magazine. And there's a lot of resources to find existing data. For example, if you wanted to go to there's a lot of demographic information about communities on that website. In Mississippi, the Secretary of State's office has a program called Y'all Business, and you can actually find out all kinds of information about the economy of your community there.

Amy Myers: What about economic studies?

Rachael Carter: An economic study is a more formal way to find out information about your community. You can conduct an economic impact analysis for a specific event that's going on. You can conduct a retail trade analysis to kind of find out where there's room for growth for different types of businesses in your community. The best way to do that is to contact the Mississippi State University Extension Service and ask for an economics expert, an economics specialist. Those people are there to help with situations just like that.

Amy Myers: And market analysis. What's that?

Rachael Carter: Well, market analysis is a little bit different than an economic impact analysis or a retail trade analysis. Market analysis can be conducted, again, in a lot of different ways, but it's a way to understand the demographics of your community, and to understand the spending habits of people in your community so maybe you can identify some needs for improvements.

Amy Myers: And some really good cities that I've noticed that are really tapping in to what they already have instead of building new buildings and trying to spend all this money on new infrastructure, they're using what they've got and actually doing really well. One example is McKinney, Texas, and some others in Mississippi would be Water Valley, and Cleveland, Mississippi, and Laurel, Mississippi, too.

Rachael Carter: Yes, Amy. All those are small towns that are tapping in to this whole downtown revitalization, let's get back to small town America.

Amy Myers: Okay. So, for more information can we contact our local Mississippi State University County Extension Office to learn how we can get in touch with an economist?

Rachael Carter: Yes.

Amy Myers: And the site for MSU Extension is Is that correct?

Rachael Carter: That's correct.

Amy Myers: Today we've been speaking with Rachael Carter, Community Development Specialist. I'm Amy Myers, and this has been Farm and Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm and Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Department: Ext Ctr for Government & Comm Devel

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