The international fascination with Route 66 made manifest in the rising tide of tourism, and the resultant economic impact detailed in the recent World Monuments Fund/Rutgers University study has made it easier than ever to sell a very simple message. If you transform a community into a destination, in the process you make that community a place people want to live, to raise families, and to open businesses. As an added bonus you also make it a sustainable community.
The first step is to initiate public discussion. Your efforts can be as simple as writing informed, articulate, letters that avoid inflammatory language to the editor of the local paper, making presentations at local meetings of the Lions Club, Kiwanis and similar organizations, arranging to have knowledgeable people speak at those meetings, or ensuring the chamber of commerce is made aware of what other communities are doing, and how those efforts can be modified to benefit your community.
Hand in hand with this is the need to become educated about the history of Route 66, what makes it an international destination, and what makes this a linear community. If you are truly baffled by the roads popularity, take a bit of a road trip along the road or simply initiate conversations with travelers at local museums, stores or restaurants.
Pick up a copy of the various guide books offered by the National Historic Route 66 Federation, check out a few of the key websites such as posted by the Route 66 Alliance or the Route 66 Chamber of Commerce. I also recommend the Route 66 News site to ensure your information is relevant and fresh, as well as to spark ideas about topics for initiating discussions.
There are two things to be avoided. The first is myopia. Route 66 may be a linear community but is is also a string of communities with unique and individual personalities. Think of it as a large town with neighborhoods that have colorful and distinctive attributes.
The Route 66 traveler is looking for an authentic experience. So, find ways to link your communities unique attributes and charms to that of Route 66. Include these things in your discussions and conversations.
The second item to be avoided is divisive individuals. These are the folks whose focus is so self serving and narrow that they can look down a beer bottle with both eyes.
These are the polarizing people that seem to thrive on fueling divisions and transforming simple disagreements into riots or lynch mobs. These are the folks who blame everyone but themselves for the state of their business or community, and that are quick to vocally proclaim why things don’t work but never offer solutions.
Trying to rationalize or negotiate with them is an absolute waste of time. This is not to say that crafting compromises is a wasted effort. Remember, anyone can whip a mob into a riot but it takes a leader to turn those passions toward creativity rather than destruction.
If your really ambitious, and the pinata impersonations that result from your public conversations haven’t deterred you, take it to the next level. In the next posting I will provide ideas on doing just that, and examples of where those simple efforts have paid very big benefits.