Brunswick: Small Business is growth business

Commercial corridors have an outsized impact on their communities – their high visibility means that they define their city in the minds of residents and visitors.   But what do you do when your prime commercial corridor tells those people that your town is…

Tired? Jumbled? Crumbling? Sad?

Too often, communities spend huge sums on decorative paving and planters and banners, without thinking hard about what actual opportunities the community has, and what practical (and often less-expensive) changes could help it work better.

As a post-war suburban community, Brunswick’s main commercial corridors had boomed in the 1950s and 1960s, when even the most rudimentary buildings housed desirable businesses, as long as customers could park their cars in front of them. But with the explosion of retail options in the 1970s and 1980s, convenient access lost its market edge, and commercial buildings on Brunswick’s major avenues began the long slide into deterioration, vacancy, tax revenue decline and increasingly less valuable businesses.

Our multi-disciplinary team pursued a three-prong strategy to address Brunswick’s needs:Brunswick area strategy

  • Economic Development strategies for identifying and recruiting long-term new business opportunities;
  • Urban Design strategies for public and private spaces; and
  • Land Use Regulation strategies for implementing the urban design and economic development strategies.

The Economic Development component of the Plan classified Brunswick’s existing and potential business sectors by their potential for growth and market share, including documenting for the first time the massive role of small businesses in the economy of this community.  As we evaluated the potential for Brunswick’s future growth and market share in relation to the regional context, this small business niche’s potential became increasingly more obvious, and a stronger value driver for residents and other businesses that could be even more effective with some targed attention to business recruitment and building redevelopment support.  Documenting this hidden resource allowed us to help the City find low-cost, easy-t0-implement strategies for marketing and fostering entrepreneurship.