The Cottage Grove Area Chamber of Commerce hopes that as shoppers see neon green banners touting community pride pop up throughout town, they will stop and take notice of their local businesses.

The effort, dubbed “With Community Pride,” is just one of many ways local officials plan to reinvigorate efforts to improve Cottage Grove’s business climate and put the spotlight on shopping locally.

“There’s nothing more powerful than a community focused on a singular goal,” Cottage Grove City Council member Justin Olsen said as he and council member Steve Dennis facilitated the Shop Cottage Grove business summit Nov. 12.

The city’s campaign aimed at promoting local businesses started strong, but lost steam, Olsen said. And it’s time to bring the focus back.

Olsen emphasized that consumers have most of the power. “Government only has so much we can do,” he said. “Really the people who have the most control are the people who vote with their wallet.”

But there are actions that can improve the situation, Dennis said. He laid out a detailed plan to address the area’s business and economic needs.

Dennis emphasized communication and coordination - among developers and businesses, with staff and to the public. He also suggested surveying citizens about what types of businesses they would like to see.

“By doing this formally and capturing information, imagine what it would be like to take this as a sales tool” to entice businesses to the area, he said.

He encouraged improving the city’s recruitment information and putting attention on Cottage Grove’s “gateway” appeal. “Perception becomes reality,” he said.

Dennis also said there is a need to build the city’s population, and to increase housing types and availability.

“Basically from cradle to grave, we want you to be able to live here,” Olsen said, highlighting work to expand affordable senior housing and acknowledging that the city needs more residential variety.

If businesses want to succeed in Cottage Grove they need employees, and transportation can come into play.

“Transportation is a huge component of economic development,” said Washington County Commissioner Karla Bigham. More public transit options, especially to get employees to the Business Park or other key sites, would help businesses and residents, she said.

Dennis encouraged people to consider what’s available at local businesses before leaving Cottage Grove and to dedicate time and energy to spending dollars locally.

“It all boils down to the way our consumers decide to spend their money,” he said.

The chamber’s efforts focus on just that, utilizing the bright green customizable banners and window clings to promote the With Community Pride campaign, said Trent Cole, who leads the chamber’s marketing efforts.

“If we can get people to feel the sense of community, I think we can really change patterns of behavior,” he said.

Officials, residents and business owners brought up many ideas at the summit. Olsen said the discussion is important, but it is also time to take action.

“We want to quit talking about this stuff and we want to get it done, but we want to get it done right,” he said.

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