• Dave McGuire

Recruiting Through the SBA

The Clarksvillian

Most communities want to revitalize with growth and that means courting private investment. In that regard, Clarksville and Montgomery County are not any different from every other community in the country. How do we get there among the miles of today's obstacles?

Smead Capital Management recently made a high-profile announcement with their decision to leave the city of Seattle for Arizona. Smead CEO, Cole Smead, referenced the two determining factors as Covid19’s impact on the business climate and social unrest within the city. An excuse used by Seattle city leaders referenced the trendiness of big city residents to move to either suburbs or rural communities. These types of moves resulted from socioeconomics or simply a pure quality of life change. Both the business and personal relocations indicate new possibilities for communities like Clarksville.

The ugly shift of the national economy’s unsteadiness because of the coronavirus may place Clarksville in a position of leverage. That’s not to naively imply we have one of the nation’s best sales lines, but don't mistake our sales pitch as weak. If the opportunity does not lend itself to sell the Greater Clarksville Area as “America’s Best Place to Live”, our proximity to one of America’s favorite cities is a nice backup conversation. Large businesses, in high tax/high-cost areas, are looking for partners willing to help them exit punitive business climates for greener pastures. Are those relocation tax incentives really the key to developing the funnel necessary for continued community growth?

As I type, I can hear friends talking about local government giving up too much for too brief return when pursuing large developments. In these types of pursuits, a tunnel vision perspective can leave the wrong impression. Greater Clarksville business leaders have continually showed an ability to close the door for strong business relocation opportunities. Those large form deals can be exhaustive and exceedingly long from negotiations until actual realization of operations. No one is quite sure how long this recession will last. A better pursuit may be found in pursing smaller businesses.

In recent years, have we been too aggressive and spent funds that could have gone to improving resources necessary to develop a flourishing business ecosystem? Has the quality investment in education, infrastructure, and APSU been enough? Are we ready to support or attract additional high valued industries regardless of financial incentives we offer? It’s certainly a balancing act.

A creative program many cities are using to relocate businesses to their city, or internally develop local small business, is through an incubator. The traditional business incubator is housed within one large building, typically at least 40,000 square feet, where start-up businesses have access to a range of business assistance, such as networking opportunities, business services, equipment, and relatively low rent rates. While some incubators choose to focus on specific business categories (ex: manufacturing, technology, energy, etc.), others have greater availability and remain open to wide varieties of businesses. It’s been established time and again that small businesses have higher rates of survival, success and growth when incubator support is utilized. These programs allow for the city assist with being good stewards of small businesses competing in large industries.

The new American Main Street may be found in the incubator activities and workflow structure of these business models. The net result will transform small cities into continually growing vibrant communities socially and economically. These types of resources will continue to add tools into the impressive toolbox being built in the Greater Clarksville Area’s business community.