A new report from the Baylor Focus Firm Partnership Project outlines a number of recommendations that could help North Bay become a thriving, desirable community, including reinvigorating the downtown, setting up a networking space/incubator, and improving communication with the community.
The report is the result of an eight-month research process undertaken by MBA students from Texas-based Baylor University as part of its Focus Firm program, which allows students to gain real-life experience and businesses to be analyzed for improvement. North Bay was the first municipality Baylor’s chosen to study.
Project lead Kevin Hutchison said the research shows a number of small steps can be taken to enhance North Bay and what it has to offer.
“The data’s telling a story that, in the 21st century, it’s not about landing the big fish in suburban environments,” Hutchison said. “It’s about building within the urban core the right entrepreneurial vision and leadership, and attracting those that will create the jobs of tomorrow.”
To start, the city should reinvigorate its downtown, since research shows younger generations are drawn more to grimy, industrial parts of a city than sanitized suburbia. Make it safer and unique, and more young entrepreneurs could be drawn there, the study says.
The study also shows that an incubator/networking space has helped other communities draw in small, young companies. Hutchison said it’s one way to make it easy for companies to succeed.
“If we’re going to attract some folks, why don’t we attract those orphan companies that are looking for a home and have great potential?” Hutchison said.
The study proposes “The Hive,” a building where business can network, get mentorship, share space, and co-work.
Another recommendation proposes better communication from city hall to residents. Survey results indicated a large percentage of residents don’t understand North Bay’s plan for the city, or don’t trust the municipal government.
Hutchison said the city could increase its social media presence, or hold town hall meetings, a tool many cities hesitate to employ.
“If you approach town halls in the right way, they’re incredibly empowering and you leave with a lot of people able to effect change,” Hutchison said.
The report also suggests soliciting opinions from residents for a community-led project.
“This is getting folks to manage and control their destiny in North Bay,” Hutchison said. “So instead of the city figuring out what projects we should go after, and soliciting public support, let’s go to the public; let’s have the public tell us what they want to do.”
Following the April 22 report presentation, George Burton, chair of the Invest North Bay board of directors, said the report provides a good foundation for the city.
“Our next step is to engage the community of North Bay in the visioning exercise to make it participatory, transparent, so we decide as a community what North Bay is going to become,” Burton said.
From there, the city will follow a “logical process,” which will lead to a strategy and tactics for moving forward, he added.
No timeline was associated with how soon the process could get underway.