By: Margaret Dillard – Chamber President
Everything you have learned about traditional economy, education, workforce and shopping habits is no longer relevant without considering that the focus of the American Dream has shifted. New generations have brought on this different way of thinking about … well, almost everything! According to a 2015 US Census report, not only do millennials outnumber baby boomers, accounting for about a quarter of the population but are also “more diverse than the generations that preceded them, with 44.2 percent being part of a minority race or ethnic group.”
Living for the experience has replaced the overwhelming need to amass wealth. Being part of something bigger than one’s own wants and needs is forcing change in how we connect. Case in point, while the national retail environment is reeling, small business, boutiques and mom and pop shops are primed to answer shopping trends.
Small Business Saturday is a new twist on the Midwestern Crazy Daze promotion. It’s an annual shopping tradition dedicated to supporting small businesses and celebrating communities across the country. Founded by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday is celebrated every year on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The board of directors at Fairmont Area Chamber expressed the desire to participate in this effort, so for the past two years, we have been recognized as a “Community Champion” thereby receiving resources and materials to lead an effort to encourage people to shop local. Both years, we’ve chosen to facilitate the Passport Program. The Shop Small Passport is part scavenger hunt, part souvenir for shoppers to collect stamps from all their favorite places. Each time shoppers made a purchase at a participating place, they received a stamp. When they shopped at other small businesses, that stamp got them something special—like a discount or hot chocolate. Thank you to participating Chamber Members: Dan’s Appliance & TV, JL Computers, Minuteman Press, NAPA Auto Parts, Sovell Jewelry, Twelve Baskets Re-Sale and The Visual Identity Vault and other Participating Businesses: The Cutting Edge Salon, Dees Floral, The Extra Touch and Sommer Outdoors.
Another shift now widely recognized is that young professionals will forego financial compensation to live in communities that feature safety, quality educational options, affordability, recreational amenities and a variety of local healthcare facilities. For years, we’ve heard and readily accepted that rural America is dying. We believed that as we sent our youth off to acquire their key to success and happiness – a four-year degree – we were sealing the fate of small communities because they would never find the American Dream of yesteryear (otherwise known as the six figure salary) back home. Research of Ben Winchester, at Minnesota’s Extension Center for Community Vitality further supports that millennials do not shoot for the same goals as their parents. The “Fairmont Area Life” project is a collaborative venture of the City of Fairmont’s Economic Development Authority, Fairmont Area Chamber and local stakeholders that adopts an aggressive approach to recruiting and retaining talent using social media and websites as well as traditional media and personal contact to showcase quality of life indicators, local human interest stories and testimonials unique to Martin County, Minnesota.
In addition to experience over wealth and cause over personal wants, we also have immediate information 24/7. The conversation of yesterday was how to integrate Facebook and websites with newspaper ads. Now, we separate online marketing options by audience demographics. It’s a moving target but the business community is getting a handle on trends in marketing, public relations and fundraising while balancing new ways to encourage people to come here and stay here. Thankfully, some of these techniques apply when reaching those who purchase products and services and those who assist in getting quality deliverables in the hands of the end user on time.
The board of directors, staff and volunteers of the Fairmont Area Chamber are dedicated to collaborating with others to strengthen the fabric of the Fairmont area through the efforts featured here and many, many others. We welcome your comments, suggestions and ideas. Feel free to call or schedule a visit!