Lona Duvall--Keep the Red Bull Flowing
This week on the Dream Maker Podcast, we spoke on dedication and passion with Lona Duvall. Duvall is the President, and CEO of the Finney County Economic Development Corporation (FCEDC) and came to discuss economic development.
A self-described “recovering banker,” Lona has been doing this for 12 years now and is an expert on the topic. Let's go over some of the topics from the podcast below:
For the last 15 years, the FCEDC has existed as a public corporation. This means they receive funds from taxpayers and are responsible for communicating with open meetings.
In addition to business recruitment, they work on things like housing development, childcare development, and quality of life amenities. Their office has undertaken the goal of fixing the shortage of 4000 housing units short in Finn county by 2030.
Nobody knows our communities better than the people involved in them. Instead of having outside sources come in and try to make changes, the FCEDC shows us that we can come up with the solution on our own and bring it to them.
One of the things that makes Duvall’s position unique is the interesting nature of the Finney County market. With so many people making the trek on weekends or workdays, the range of Garden City is huge.
People from all over are choosing to be a part of the community and travel in from a great distance away. This enables the city to maintain a small-town feel while bringing in a large amount of revenue.
She is consistently trying to convince businesses to treat her community as a much larger one than it appears on paper. Reportedly, they often regret starting with a smaller model after realizing how much they could have made otherwise.
Duvall states that they are fortunate enough to be picky about what businesses can join the community. They first think about the industries they'd like to see and then begin searching for the best that industry has to offer.
In the spirit of being up-front, they mention from the start that the city is currently full on housing and workers. Getting off on the right foot means that you must present the entire case as it truly is.
Any business that is not willing to be a meaningful member of the community won't make for a good business to add to the community either. If both sides wind up being a right fit for each other, businesses can feel confident that they have an ally in the FCEDC.)
The Shoe-Store Model
Duvall spoke briefly about how the community does not worry about competition in the same way as others may. There is a model (the Shoe-Store Model) which helps to aid in understanding exactly why this is. The theory of this model states that four shoe stores on a corner bring in more business than one.
While the competing nature of the businesses seems like a problem, the fact is that it turns one store into a destination. That corner becomes the go-to spot for anyone looking for shoes, instead of just those looking for a single particular business.
Or, as she puts it in the podcast, “A rising tide raises all ships.”
A lot of economic development offices won't disclose anything about their operations. That is not the case here. All meetings are broadcast live on social media and Lona is upfront with the taxpayers that she works for them, not the other way around.
Part of that is listening to the community and building relationships with the public. Lona credits the entire community with the success of her office. Namely, the fact that they have managed to land every business they have gone for.
While she claims her team is incredible and certainly a big factor, it is the community, she says, that is the deciding factor. The transparent nature of the corporation means that the community can come to the table and make suggestions of their own.
“Deliver Red Bull Occasionally”
As a farm kid, Duvall knows when it’s “time to harvest,” it’s no time for rest. She says she hasn’t had a week where she’s worked less than 60 hours in the 12 years she’s been in the game. She hasn’t felt able to as she’s “fertilizing and working the field” so that she can build something great.
When things are moving and the harvest is happening, Duval says
Just don’t interrupt me. Leave me in the game. Trust me, I don’t need food. Deliver Red Bull occasionally and just trust me that we’ve gotta ride this to fruition.
If you’re looking for some financial help to ride your dreams to fruition, contact us online or stop by any DFB location and talk with one of our expert bankers. Don’t forget to keep listening to the Dream Maker Podcast for more expertise!