by Andrew M. Davis

Town Inc. unpacks the deceivingly simple link between building a booming business and growing a prosperous town. The secret, it turns out, is to market your town just as passionately as you market your own business.

In cities across America, business leaders are telling uniquely compelling stories to lure other businesses and a willing workforce to relocate to their towns. Their towns flourish and their businesses prosper.

What happens when you market the place you do business just as much – if not more – than the business you do?

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TOWN INC. – Table of Contents

Town, Inc is the modern-day story of true American visionaries. These exceptional entrepreneurial leaders do more than cultivate their own businesses. They proactively define the place — the town — in which they build their businesses. These leaders are inextricably linked to the locations they’ve chosen to live and work. They rise to become the exemplars of entire industries. They turn quiet villages into thriving towns and idle towns into busy cities. These wise leaders actively create an unforgettable legacy.
If you want to make it in country music, there’s only one place in the world to be. A startup in Silicon Valley is seemingly more credible than a startup based anywhere else in the world. If you want access to the best insurance personnel in the world, Hartford has them. That’s the power of a simple claim: It makes a specific set of people and businesses wonder why they’re not in your town.
We’ve been taught that envy is bad. (It is one of the seven deadly sins.) But location-envy is benign. The envy we’ve been encouraged to avoid is destructive. Location-envy is constructive. It’s a unifying force, an amazing source of pride, a tremendous motivator, and — most importantly —a powerful emotion.
True American visionaries stake their claim. And, they start by identifying the businesses in town that are already successful. This means that if you’re going to stake your claim you must start by looking at the businesses already here. These success stories set a foundation for your future success. You need to find your Revra DePuy.
An audacious claim has the power to immediately create a sense of place. It simplifies your message and empowers the rest of world to paint their own picture of what your town looks like. What it feels like. What businesses drive your economic engine? A claim even helps us imagine who lives in your town and what kind of lifestyle they live. Ironically, psychiatrists, sociologists, cartographers, even social scientists, have spent decades trying to determine what goes into creating a sense of place.

So, what exactly is a sense of place?

We love a good origin story.

An origin story is the back-story of a person, place or thing. It’s the legend behind a comic book character, a corporation, a product, or even a sport.

Did you know that NASCAR’s origin story begins with bootlegging? During prohibition alcohol smugglers decided to soup-up their cars so they could outrun the police. Occasionally, these bootleggers (infinitely proud of the cars they’d built) would gather together and race their vehicles for bragging rights. One day at a hotel bar after an impromptu race in Daytona Beach[ Daytona origin story.

Andrew Davis, 3/11/15, 2:06 PM], a fan named Bill France decided to create a set of rules, put a promotional plan together, and organized a few races. Today we call it NASCAR.

It turns out that the successful claim you stake is simply the declaration of the cluster you and your town serve better than anyone else in the world.

But, let’s think more deeply than clusters. Go beyond them to embrace micro-clusters. Warsaw, Indiana isn’t the Life Sciences Capital of the World. (That’s a more traditional cluster.) Nope. It’s the Orthopedic Capital of the World™. (That’s a micro-cluster.)

People, not products or places, are at the heart of every American town’s success story. Don’t look to Washington politicians or local elected officials for watered-down, politically correct visions of the future. Instead, tap the visionaries in our midst to create a sense of place. Let’s build on the power of their origin stories, the cornerstone’s they’ve founded, and the places they’ve helped create.
It turns out that almost any claim, no matter how novel, has the power to change the demeanor of an entire town from the inside out. In fact, even a claim as seemingly trivial as Alexandria’s has the power to reinstate three things that have been missing from our American cities and towns for a long time: Optimism about the future, a true sense of community pride, and a productive spirit of unity.
No matter where I went on my journey across America the stories sounded eerily similar: the manufacturing belt became the factory belt, the factory belt became the steel belt, the steel belt became the rust belt.

The remnants of our previous triumphs are clear and present as you drive west from Pennsylvania through West Virginia, Ohio, and Indiana. Vacant buildings, crumbling factories, and boarded-up main streets are the landmarks of yesteryear’s booms.

Connecting the dots between the place one does business and one’s businesses success is how one creates location-envy. Your claim is hollow without a series of businesses to support it, and a hollow claim won’t grow your business. A hollow claim most certainly won’t save your town.
You must leverage the power of your progress to create location-envy in the minds of others. The entire industry (your micro-cluster) must start to believe that they would be more successful if they were doing business with you, in your city, than anywhere else in the world. Before I show you how boomtowns leverage their hometown heroes to attract the dreamers and the innovators, let me introduce you to Wilbur Schult.
For many American cities or towns, it is all-to-easy to be lulled into complacency by the success and growth of your micro-cluster. There is a certain sense of security and self-satisfaction that comes along with a growing (and seemingly stable) cluster. However, one of the largest threats to your continued prosperity is a lack of qualified personnel to maintain the expansion of your industry.
If any town needs to stake an audacious claim to resurrect its economy, it is Detroit. If any city needs a visionary to fill the vacuum, it is Detroit. If someone is going to save Detroit he or she is going to need to create unfathomable amounts of location-envy. Detroit needs a modern-day Henry Ford, and it looks like a college drop-out from Texas just might fit the bill.
In 1807, Samuel Blodget opened a canal and lock system on the Merrimack River in a little town called Derryfield, New Hampshire. At the time, he envisioned building a great industrial metropolis modeled after the first industrialized city in the world, Manchester, England. By 1810, Blodget had lured some manufacturers to set up shop in town, and at his suggestion, the town’s name was changed from Derryfield to Manchester. (Even Samuel realized he could capitalize on the origin story of the English city’s success.)

Unfortunately, Manchester is a shell of its former self. The manufacturing left long ago. The massive cotton mill complex is an awkward mix of apartments, restaurants, retail, office, art, and vacant space. As an outsider, it appears that the town is struggling to reinvent itself.

I first drove into Hamilton, Ohio (not to be confused with Jenny Doan’s Hamilton, Missouri) in November of 2013. Danielle Webb, whom I met at a marketing conference earlier that year, invited me to town to host a non-profit workshop. Danielle is a progressive marketer. She is a bundle of optimism and energy. She is smart, assertive, and very involved. Over drinks, after a long day of brainstorming, I shared my vision for Town Inc. with Danielle. Without skipping a beat, Ms. Webb invited me to come back to Hamilton to help find and stake their town’s claim.
No one is going to save your town and spark explosive growth but you.
And you can do it.

America’s greatest cities were built by people. People who had a vision for their business. Their businesses built thriving towns and these towns turned into today’s cities. These people, the businesses they championed, and the towns in which they lived turned America into the greatest nation on earth.

Listen to Andrew’s favorite Audiobook Chapter

Chapter Fourteen: Case Study – Saving Detroit

If any town needs to stake an audacious claim to resurrect its economy, it is Detroit. If any city needs a visionary to fill the vacuum, it is Detroit. If someone is going to save Detroit he or she is going to need to create unfathomable amounts of location-envy. Detroit needs a modern-day Henry Ford, and it looks like a college drop-out from Texas just might fit the bill.

Interested in the Audiobook?


AS HEARD ON: Bloomberg Radio

Listen to author, Andrew M. Davis, chat about the Muppets and his mission to save America’s cities and towns.

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Tourism Keynote Speaker Andrew M. Davis

About Andrew M. Davis

Andrew Davis is a bestselling author and internationally acclaimed keynote speaker.

Before building and selling a thriving digital marketing agency, Andrew produced for NBC’s Today Show, worked for The Muppets in New York and wrote for Charles Kuralt. He’s appeared in the New York Times, Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and on NBC and the BBC. Davis has crafted documentary films and award-winning content for tiny start-ups and Fortune 500 brands.

Recognized as one of the industry’s “Jaw-Dropping Marketing Speakers,” Andrew is a mainstay on global marketing influencer lists. Wherever he goes, Andrew Davis puts his infectious enthusiasm and magnetic speaking style to good use teaching business leaders how to grow their businesses, transform their cities, and leave their legacy.