Rural Tourism: A Great Business Attraction Strategy For Small Towns

by Joanne Steele on October 21, 2010

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When I started blogging a year and a half ago, my target audience was small rural tourism oriented businesses. What I have come to realize is that an even more important audience is rural redevelopment and economic development folks.

Why Would Rural Redevelopment and Economic Development People Be Interested in Rural Tourism?

For small rural communities, business attraction is what is going to save us. Our once charming, bustling downtowns are lined with vacant storefronts, and in too many towns our young people are heading to the big city.

We still have our compelling small town atmosphere, our authentic experiences and outdoor recreation that brings people to many of our towns on the weekends.

Most of our existing small business owners came to our towns first as visitors.

They have stories to tell of how they worked, saved and planned before moving to our town and set up their business.

Our visitors are looking for ways to make the move from their stressful urban lives to permanently partake of the small town lifestyle they enjoy so much during their weekend visits.

Rural economic development entities only have to look in the local motels and restaurants to find future business owners to attract.

Our business attraction specialists are the owners of our lodgings, who get to know the people who return again and again. They and the restaurant owners hear visitors talk about how much they want to move to a “place like this.”

Giving them and every other business owner who meets and talks to the public, the tools to turn those visitor/dreamers into residents is a solid economic development strategy.

Hood River, Oregon has made this business attraction model work.

Check out what I discovered there that might work in your town:  Rural Tourism: Hood River, Oregon’s Powerful Economic Development Marketing Tool

I spent some time this week in Alturas, California with their Economic Vitality group. It is always fun to spend time with a group of business people who are enthusiastic and optimistic about their town.

I’ve written about Alturas before. They sit at the intersection of two scenic byway, with lots of traffic going through town between Oregon cities and Reno, Nevada.

Besides the outdoor recreation nearby, and the friendly small town atmosphere, they have a vitally important attraction tool for towns wishing to bring in young entrepreneurs. They have broadband access!

Alturas might think that the rural tourism business attraction model won’t work.

They might think it won’t work  since they are looking at attracting small manufacturing operations and small alternative energy companies rather than tourism businesses. But it will!!

In Mt. Shasta, California, my nearest neighboring town, the most thriving business in this rural tourism community is Wholesale Solar, a small solar panel manufacturer that ships all over the world.

The owners chose Mt. Shasta for lifestyle reasons after visiting. Note when you visit their site how the Colemans speak about Mt. Shasta on the About Us page. They are now helping to bring visitors to town who may turn into new business owners. More examples of business attraction rural style!

Alturas’ combination of outdoor recreation, access to tons of visitors passing through town, natural beauty, small town lifestyle, wide open spaces AND broadband is unbeatable.

They, and probably your town don’t have to worry about not having a big budget for business attraction. They and you don’t even have to travel out of town to have a successful effort.

Here are several other articles about rural economic development guerilla marketing style:

How to Ask For Tax Dollars to Market Your Rural Tourism Destination

Why Rural Tourism Needs and Deserves Governmental Help

How is your rural community working to turn visitors into residents and business owners?

Thanks to michal_hadassah for the photo on Flickr

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