August 2, 2017
The California city with Midwest values
After receiving 14,000 nominations for towns to put in the spotlight during season two of “Small Business Revolution,” we hit the road to visit eight inspiring towns that made our short list of potential finalists. Throughout summer, we’re looking back and sharing the stories of what made each town special – including guest posts from local leaders and some profiles of businesses in these communities. This is the second post written by Jolene Polyack, City of Kingsburg Economic Development, in our weeklong focus on Kingsburg, California.
Being selected out of 14,000 applications as one of the eight semi-finalists and then as one of the five finalist cities was an unexpected, but momentous voyage for our little town. Kingsburg is overshadowed by bigger, more aggressive cities. This sort of notoriety never happens for us, not in California and certainly not in the United States.
When Amanda Brinkman and her team arrived, we explained that we are a California city with midwestern values. They wanted to know what that meant. We explained that we’re an agriculturally driven community, where people help each other, take care of each other and are supportive. In agriculture it takes many, many hands to go from planting to harvesting. We are all in this together and the children learn this early on. Our schools are not divided by location or socio-economics. Instead, schools are divided by grade levels. All of the kindergarteners attend one school. All of the first graders attend another school and so forth. You graduate from high school with the same kids you have known nearly your entire life.
With retail shifting to online purchases, we knew we would have to pivot in order to maintain our downtown. The first time a bus-load of tourists pulled to the side of the road so that the passengers could get out and touch the blossoms in an orchard, it became obvious that agri-tourism would be a viable way to help support the local merchants.
Just weeks after learning we weren’t the winner, the California Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) announced that Kingsburg had been selected for pro-bono planning assistance. We were the first community in California selected to receive this assistance. Six seasoned City Planners from throughout the state immersed themselves here for four days. As a result, we received a detailed, step-by-step report on how to revitalize our downtown. We immediately went to work implementing their recommendations.
With the observations from Small Business Revolution coupled with the suggestions from our guest planners, Kingsburg will be able to once again transform our Swedish Village into a vibrant central hub for locals and visitors alike.
We love having company. If you are ever in the area, please stop by for an experience you will not obtain anywhere else. Start up a conversation with a local – we’re friendly and hospitable. Maybe have a nice glass of award-winning wine from our local winery, see the fully renovated 1923 train station, buy local produce and even Swedish gifts to take home. Plus, you’ll have bragging rights as you pose for photos next to one of our many Dala Horses or beneath our giant coffee pot water tower in the park. Come see why Kingsburg made it to the finals of Small Business Revolution and how we’re sustaining our momentum.