The Business Loop CID was one of six organizations in the nation to receive a Smart Growth America grant designed to encourage local, small-scale manufacturing as a way to revitalize an underperforming area of the city and create new economic opportunities. A critical part of this plan was to find a way to revitalize the area in a way that didn’t drastically change the character of the street or exclude people who would benefit from the improvements.
Experts from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, Recast City and Smart Growth America visited our city and spoke to over 275 Columbians who cook, manufacture, build, or make things. The result was a comprehensive economic development plan based on supporting and attracting local makers and producers to The Loop.
While the complete plan has detailed action steps for moving forward, here is the general overview of their recommendations.
Establish a Clear Vision for The Loop
While our Loop Corridor Plan presents a vision of a street with working infrastructure, accessible streets and sidewalks, landscaping, and public art, a vision for how the corridor will develop in the future is important. What will infill development look like and how can we ensure new buildings can both house local makers and provide an active and attractive face to the street? How can the street connect to nearby neighborhoods to ensure that surrounding residents can benefit from increased jobs, shopping options, and other activities? Creating a visual guide to building styles and materials and creating a handful of test cases for the new Unified Development Code will be key steps.
Build upon Catalytic Partnerships
Often it takes one catalytic project to see the possibilities in an area. The Business Loop is home to some key institutions so it’s important to find ways to partner with organizations such as MACC and Boone Electric Cooperative. The Loop CID can seek developers interested in creating spaces for small manufacturing and serve as a match maker between property owners and tenants and between manufacturers and potential employees.
Help Make City Processes Predictable and Transparent
Small-scale manufacturing hasn’t been a focus in Columbia so the details of building a manufacturing space or permitting a business (particularly a food production business) are not well-established. Despite good intentions from city staff, there is also a disconnect between the needs of the businesses and what is provided. The Loop CID can help by clarifying these needs and advocate for a more streamlined and accessible permitting process. Refining the UDC’s definition of Artisan Industries to better reflect the activities of current makers is also critical.
Activate The Loop with Branding and Programming
It’s now common to focus on bringing customers to an area before any permanent structures are built—if people are excited about an area, developers and businesses are more willing to move there. We can work on branding The Loop as a destination for small-manufacturers (building on our current mix of home improvement, DIY businesses, and service centers). A series of events designed to bring people to The Loop and highlight local makers could showcase the diversity of Columbia’s makers and establish The Loop as a place for everyone.
Provide Business Development Support
Existing business counseling organizations are not only booked solid but often lack the detailed understanding of food or other types of production. Working with REDI and CMCA/MOWBC to expand their capacity and expertise is a way to take advantage of successful processes and adapt them to new needs. Reaching out to banks and other business funding sources to link them to potential manufacturers is key, particularly since the women, people of color, and recent immigrants we spoke to during this process don’t always have a relationship with a bank. Finally, hosting meet-ups of local makers would help foster mentoring relationships between manufacturers.
Although we need to find solutions that fit Columbia, the consulting team gave us a handful of inspirational ideas from other cities to prove it can be done.
The Ennovation Center – A commercial kitchen in Independence, MO located in a former hospital. They provide space, equipment, and business counseling to their members.
MOTAR – An organization dedicated to revitalizing a Cincinnati neighborhood via inclusive entrepreneurship. They purposefully build cohorts of new business owners across racial and ethnic groups.
Western Market Pop Ups – Muskegon, MI built a handful of pop-up chalets to house start-up businesses seeking affordable retail space. While they work on permanent development, many cities use temporary buildings—like shipping containers—as shops during popular retail times like holidays or events.
Latino Economic Development Center – A non-profit organization’s one-stop website for start-up businesses that combines business counseling and financing options for a underserved population. The website is backed by on-site services in the business owner’s preferred language.
Executive Director, Columbia STEM Alliance
Manager, City of Columbia Office of Sustainability
President, Regional Economic Development Inc.
Dean of Workforce Development & Technical Ed, MACC
Executive Director, The Loop CID
Plaza Commercial Realty
Chair, The Loop CID
Owner, Logboat Brewing Co.
Chamber Chair, Huebert Builders
Director of the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, MU
Director, Columbia Public Schools Career Center
Director, Missouri Women’s Business Center
City of Columbia
Download and print the full plan:
This plan will require the approval and support of many stakeholders, including the City of Columbia. Our consulting team anticipates it will take at least 10 years until we see the impact of some of these recommendations. That said, there’s no time like the present to start!
If you’d like us to present the plan to your group or organization, contact us at [email protected].