THE Wheatbelt Development Commission hosted a forum featuring international author and speaker Kim Huston at the Bridgeley Community Centre from 1-3pm last Tuesday.
Huston, the author of Small Town Sexy, spoke on how small towns can be promoted as being an interesting, engaging, pleasing and fascinating place to live, work and play.
Huston lives in Bardstown, Kentucky, which has been named America’s most beautiful small town, and a top 10 small town in America for community spirit.
“A sexy town means somewhere fascinating, seductively charming and a place you never want to leave,” she said.
On her journey to Northam, she remarked several locations fit this bill, namely Toodyay.
Huston had several important points in her speech, first declaring it is possible to live large in a small town.
She said this was possible because people could take much more of a hands-on role in moulding their community in comparison to a bigger city.
A big city is made up of little towns, Huston said.
“You can do big business in a small town,” she said.
“These days you don’t have to be in an office building on Wall Street to do business or a deal.
“Nobody would know you’re sitting in your dining room, or on the street having a coffee.”
A major issue Huston discussed was how small towns could be sexy to the next generation, and how they can compete with a ‘cool’ city.
“We have to engage our youth early,” she said.
“They can have a good job in town, but we also have to let them know they are here.
“We need to get young people saying ‘maybe I want to be the doctor that comes back to town’.”
Huston said the best way to get people back to small towns was via festivals and events.
This has proven highly effective in her hometown of Bardstown.
Huston listed a range of key points of what makes small towns sexy based on the top 25 American small towns.
These included being proud of what you have, being unique to who you are, engaging those willing to invest, creating a co-ordinated brand for all to adopt and use, making a great first impression and marketing yourself as a great getaway or second home.
“Be engaged – don’t sit back and think someone else will do it,” she said.
“Be different and don’t do the same thing over and over again, reinvent yourself and be edgy.
“Don’t take what you see every day for granted.”
At the conclusion of Huston’s speech, Wheatbelt Development Commission chair Tim Shackleton officially launched the Wheatbelt Blueprint.
The blueprint is a document which will help the region deliver on its potential.
It takes the Wheatbelt up to 2050 and focuses on a vibrant economy, clever people, liveable communities and a valued natural amenity.
The 2050 target for our economy is to have a seven per cent average annual growth rate.
The target is to have a workforce of 109,800, a target of 180,000 people living in diverse, safe and healthy communities and off-grid power and water solutions in 0 Wheatbelt communities.
Wheatbelt Development Commission chief executive Wendy Newman said the Wheatbelt was a region of growth and not decline.
“The Wheatbelt is a region of diversity with different economic profiles,” she said.
The Wheatbelt Blueprint is available to view on the Wheatbelt Development Commission website.