With the presidential election in full swing already, there’s lots of talk about the economy among national politicians and pundits. Like the weather, though, everybody’s talking about it, but on the national scene, seems there’s precious little meaningful action. Fortunately, Bellingham has figured out we don’t need to wait for help from the other Washington; we can better our own situation, here and now.
And we’ve been doing so. Over the past decade, the Bellingham MSA–that’s our census-count area, short for Metropolitan Statistical Area for the non-geeks out there–has grown both jobs and income at levels that eclipse the rest of the state and nation. That doesn’t mean we’ve escaped the recession; ‘growth’ can be negative, as well as positive, and we’ve had some retrenchment during the recession, but again, at a more modest rate than the rest of the state and nation.
So what makes Bellingham different, you ask? Since I was Mayor during some of the critical years, I’m tempted to say, City leadership–but really, while I do think that elected leadership, and the staff that make them look good, deserve some credit for not screwing things up too badly, more of the credit belongs to the community as a whole, and some visionaries who have helped transform our local economy from a resource-centric and manufacturing concentration of jobs, to a diverse small-business economy. Bellingham has about double the number of businesses of similarly-sized communities in the US. would normally expect to find in a community our size, a little over 200,000.
For the past decade, since April of 2002, Sustainable Connections has helped foster a thriving local business economy. SC has connected with local entrepreneurs, building a web of mutual support throughout the local, nonfranchised, no-chained, business community. Along the way, they’ve injected energy, ideas, and fun into doing business in Bellingham. Local farmers are now well-connected with top local restaurants, local suppliers connect with local end users, and dollars seem to circulate to greater effect than one might find in a more classically laissez-faire community.
And seriously, these folks know how to have fun. Too often in my life, I’ve crossed paths with incredibly earnest do-gooders–heck, I may have even fit that definition at times, myself–whose seriousness sucks the life out of what should be a joyful experience. Life is for living!
So the other day, when I got a curious little connection in my Google+ notifications; a notice that someone named ‘Cash Mobs‘ added me to their circles, I was relieved to find, on exploring, that it seems to be an extension of the ideas that Sustainable Connections has embedded with such great effect in our community. It seems ‘Cash Mobs‘ are a more purposeful antecedent to Flash Mobs, where a bunch of folks decide, via social media, to converge on a specific location for an inside-joke/party.
In the case of Cash Mobs, the purpose is to converge around some local business establishment(s), buy local stuff in support of the local economy, and then celebrate afterwards at a local drinking establishment. Events like this certainly cannot hurt local businesses; at a time when many are struggling to stay afloat, they may well prove the salvation of some. Better still, they build community, by introducing us to many of our like-minded neighbors, by demonstrating psychological as well as financial support for our neighbors in those businesses–and they promise to be fun.
This is not a Bellingham-specific phenomenon. Cash Mobs began in Cleveland, with the first event happening last November. A National Cash Mob day is being held on March 24; if you’re not in Bellingham (or Cleveland, or some other location with an already organized ‘Mob’), consider forming your own in your community. The Cleveland originators offer help for anyone wanting to form their own; click on any of the linked ‘Cash Mob‘ citations to go to their WordPress blog. For locals, Bellingham Cash Mob has a site on Facebook, click on their hyperlink or google it.