Local governments need to focus on what they are to the market

Official logo of Winston-Salem, North Carolina

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I was recently at a Forsyth County TDA meeting along with Lucy and Jon.
Being that I’ve been in doing community things in Greensboro for years, and was starting my venture into Winston-Salem’s community work, I found that there were a few things that were somewhat off.
In one of the exercises, we were to describe Forsyth County in one word. As an “outsider” but resident of the Triad nonetheless, I found that many people were throwing out words that fit better with other Triad areas than within. For instance, Greensboro really is better suited for family life mainly due to the difference in culture and downtowns. Even the nonprofit worlds from both cities vastly differ. And in the world of business? You want to differentiate yourself by playing your strengths, not playing the general field.
To me? Winston-Salem offers a lot more business type opportunities. Their retail district at one time was one of the largest in the state, and I’m sure that the Hanes Mall area is still one of the most trafficked. By no means is it my favorite (Shops at Friendly would definitely rank the highest there) but Winston-Salem offers a lot in that realm. Also, the push for both WinstonNet and the loans for 4th Street are amazing. That’s definitely a push to make downtown a nicer food arena.
By contrast, Greensboro’s community pushed for a park within their downtown. They were the first to bring a new ballpark to the downtown area through foundation help. There were talks about making the Greenway better. All in all, the focuses were more on the living standards than business.
Here, each city has entirely different focuses based on their constituents and what they drive. So when people were throwing out the words and emotions tied to what they believed what this area entailed, I mentally had to sigh a bit. It’s not that it was wrong. In fact, the words probably do touch certain people in those fashions. But if ICF names you one of the top seven “intelligent communities” in the world of 2008, somehow I doubt your strength is in family building.
In that sense? Focus the marketing on what you are to others and less on what you want to be to others.

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