Barbecue and Entrepreneurs

Originally published on April 4, 2018 by The Montrose Daily Press 

I spent last week in Kansas City attending the National Main Street Conference. This being my first time in Kansas City as well as my first time attending this particular conference, I had a lot to take in. I walked away with the following tidbits in no particular order:

1. The barbecue really is “that” good.

2. Kansas City is a “hidden” entrepreneurial breeding ground.

3. Apparently email is dead.

4. Within the last five years, more jobs were created in the United States by new firms (less than five years old) than any other age category of business.

I’m still digesting the email situation (and probably a little bit of the barbecue), but I feel ready to explore the entrepreneurial ideas. Before discussing entrepreneurship, having a basic understanding of economic development is helpful. When building an economic development infrastructure, typically three parts are considered: business attraction, business retention and business creation. For many decades, the sexiest of these has been business attraction.

Montrose is no exception to that and has greatly benefited from business attraction efforts such as Russell Stover and Ross Reels. Because these businesses chose Montrose, we have been provided many steady jobs and economic stimulation.

Interestingly, the general sentiment at the conference was that the “traditional” approach to economic development may be headed in the same direction as email. The panelists presenting these ideas insisted “creation” is the place community builders should focus economic development efforts. Much like Kansas City has done, community leaders were encouraged to shift their focus to the creation of a thriving entrepreneurial environment. This approach allows a community to tailor jobs to its specific needs. The reasoning behind these ideas came from hard data citing that “young” companies (less than five years old) were creating the majority of net new jobs in the United States.

The research further cited that big businesses are still important, and necessary in a community. However, net new jobs do not typically come from larger more established businesses. The primary source of new jobs is new business. Take Horsefly Brewing as an example. What started as just a few people serving beer out of an old tractor dealership has now grown into three (soon to be four) local locations with more than 75 jobs. This business fills a need in our community for a brewery as well as provides tourists with a unique experience. Thus, the founders have tailored jobs to the specific needs of our economy: providing a niche service to locals as well as tourists.

Often when people hear the term “entrepreneur,” they immediately think of a tech firm based in Silicon Valley developing some app that may or may not even make it to market. In actuality, only about 1 percent of entrepreneurs are innovation-led. The majority of entrepreneurs are self-proprietors; they are tradesmen and women, restaurant owners, florists, retailers, etc. Research also shows about a quarter of entrepreneurs in any given community are “Main Streeters,” meaning their business is located in the primary business district of their city or town.

Entrepreneurs can be cultivated from within as well as outside of a community. People love living in Montrose because of the lifestyle it affords. In today’s connected age (with or without the death of email), potential business owners have zero barriers in their connectivity to the rest of the world. Geography no longer has the monopoly on good ideas. Instead, bright and talented “American Dreamers” can plant their roots in communities of their choosing (like beautiful Montrose!).

Since we (as Montroseians) openly embraces growth and new ideas, I am excited to see what we can do with this information. In fact, many of the tools and pieces of a successful entrepreneurship ecosystem currently exist in our community. We now must better identify our entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs. We can then facilitate connection points for them within the community because we know people buy from the people they have a relationship with. From there, we can empower them toward success, and measure the results.

As always, I am grateful for the opportunity to travel to conferences and learn new ideas and industry trends. I am passionate about being dedicated to applying this knowledge rather than just setting my notebook on a shelf after I return home and forgetting about it. Cultivating entrepreneurship speaks right to the heart of my mission with both the Chamber of Commerce and the City of Montrose. I am excited for our future!

Chelsea Rosty is the executive director of the Montrose Chamber of Commerce and director of Business Innovation for the City of Montrose. Contact her at chelsea@montrosechamber.com.