Ilana Preuss, the founder and CEO of Recast City, is my guest today on Inside Ideas. Ilana is a passionate advocate for harnessing the potential each community has to solve its unique problems and create positive change for its citizens.
“I think one of the things coming out of the pandemic, even going into it but especially coming out of it, is this recognition that local businesses are really important,” Ilana said. “Our supply chain and the resilience of our supply chain is really important. And our downtowns, where we closed streets, is where people came together so organically because we were so isolated and desperately needed to see each other outdoors safely.”
She added: “People are recognising that we need to create these vibrant places that make people proud to call this community home, and we have to find a way to support a strong economy with locally-owned businesses.”
In her new book, Recast Your City: How to Save Your Downtown with Small-Scale Manufacturing, Ilana explores the possible pathways communities can forge if they come together to create thriving environments designed to benefit the local population and achieve long-term growth. She cites examples where transformative change is already happening, such as Fremont, California, where small-scale manufacturing businesses are the welcome alternative to an over reliance on one major manufacturer. Ilana lasers in on the skills people in each locality possess in a bid to build the future landscape from this natural well of ability.
“I studied city planning because I believe that every place has a unique personality. And that the people who live in each place have unique skills to make that place shine,” she said.
To support citizens, local government, entrepreneurs, and businesses shine, Ilana provides tools in her book to help stakeholders channel investment to where it is needed most in their downtowns.
Ilana continued: “The tools and techniques and the need that I talk about in the book are universal and international. In every place in the world we can identify that there are ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ in different ways for whatever reason, and that there is a lot of research that shows that if we are helping the people who were historically the ‘have nots’ build businesses, create good paying jobs, we actually have lots of economic research that shows that that benefits the entire economy.”
COVID-19 has undoubtedly hit poorer communities in America, and across the world, the hardest, with historical injustices coming to the fore, as those in low-paid, customer-facing jobs have been put at greater risk – and live in areas beset by supply issues. Drive through any small communities and the problems are not difficult to see. New, targeted investment is needed, and fast, to revitalise and reimagine these areas, especially in this moment, when the pandemic calls for a rethink, for new solutions, that can provide an antidote to the downward spiral that was being fuelled by the toxic old business-as-usual model.
The future of communities is a major issue, one which must be addressed with urgency. Developing new, inclusive models for achieving strong, resilient communities won’t be easy but should be seen as the opportunity it is. Ilana Preuss is one of those championing a revolution that can deliver these opportunities and I am delighted that she joins me on today’s show to discuss the ways these transformations can be taken forward.