The Santa Fe Effect
(City Planning Case)
All across America, small towns are facing a similar plight – the gradual decline of their downtown area. Early on, small town planners were concerned with traffic problems brought about by industrial growth. Many towns elected to build industrial parks to accommodate new businesses, and then to create newer highways to meet the transportation requirements of those companies. As areas outside of town began to be developed and supplied with city services, retail businesses began to relocate to new buildings as well. Today, businesses are moving out of central areas as more and more people elect to go “where the shoppers are,” generally to the larger highways that bypass the congestion of small town streets. In addition, large stores, the so-called “big box” retail operations, tend to locate in these outlying areas to take advantage of the increased flow of customers. The Interstate highway system has added to the problem by providing a constant flow of traffic just outside the periphery of most small towns. This traffic encourages the growth of specialty retail stores, as well as hospitality and industrial development.
Where do these trends leave the small town? Once the cycle has begun, it seems difficult to arrest. Usually, older buildings are left to crumble and decay, with the only holdouts often being the city offices, some professional buildings, and the law enforcement offices. Development dollars are spent elsewhere
, while the downtown area sits as a sentimental reminder of the past, at best.
Some towns are attempting to make changes that will attract business and consumers back into the downtown area, and there are several factors that favor such ideas. First, it seems that there is a trend among residents to hold onto some of the better traditions of the small town, that neighbors know one another, that people are genuinely interested in being a part of a community, and that the history and culture of the town are worth saving. All across America there are efforts underway to revitalize small towns. This increased interest perhaps reflects a deep need on the part of our citizenry to move back into a simpler, safer age, and, while this may not be absolutely possible, it is at least a signal that small town America still has a chance to survive and thrive.
Learning Vignette -- The Santa Fe Effect
This is a case about Small Town, USA. This case could be applied to hundreds of small rural towns across the entire country. However, the setting for this case is Athens, Tennessee, although it might be Florence, South Carolina, or Paducah, Kentucky. The opportunities are all the same.
Dr. Tim Smith, Professor of Business, has made an assignment in his Business Communications class to investigate downtown area of Small Town, USA, and to develop a strategy to revitalize the downtown area. Five students, including Mark Davenport, Jeff Goodwill, Robert Jackson
, Sue Williamson and Jackie Robinson, obtained a digital camera from the Resource Center and set out to film the downtown area. Through the eyes of the camera, the students saw a visual description of Small Town, USA. The camera first was used to videotape one of the famous streets that runs through the city, Highway 11. Before the Interstate days, this was the main highway that connected East Tennessee with the booming city of Atlanta. In the 1930s and 40s, this was a heavily traveled and historical highway. The camera also picked up a visual of the old historical hotel, the Robert E. Lee, which was a stopping place for the traffic that moved from north to south. The camera showed the old hotel was in disrepair and in one small corner of the building resided the local radio station. By turning the camera slightly to the left, the students observed a long, narrow building that contained building supplies. This building currently resides in the flood area of the town.
As the camera moves through the city, a video shot is made of an upscale antique store. The students notice that the store contains beautiful antiques worth perhaps thousands or millions of dollars. Students wonder where the clientele come from to buy these expensive antiques. As the camera moves through the city, it also records a small downtown restaurant
, a law office, a public school education building and several apartments build over businesses and/or vacant offices.
As the students move through the city, they also notice that the city arts council is located in a storefront along Main Street. Several other small shops are viewed by the camera, including a karate studio.
Upon further investigation, the students found a facility which is being renovated and it is rumored that a cyber-café is scheduled to be started sometime in the future.
While filming the downtown business district, the students also notice that the buildings dated in some cases before the Civil War. Although students had passed through this little town on many occasions, they had never stopped to study the possibility of reviving the downtown area. After completing the videotaping, the students came back to the production center and began to review and edit their tape. Almost immediately, they began to see new and interesting opportunities for revitalizing the downtown Small Town, USA. After reviewing the tape, Sue spoke up and said “This is a great opportunity for us to conduct an interdisciplinary study of downtown USA and to develop a meaningful research project that will identify new and unique opportunities for the city. Furthermore,” Sue said
, “I think we ought to begin immediately to involve the local arts council, city government and the Chamber of Commerce.” Jan immediately spoke up and said, “ I think I would like to open a small business in one of the storefronts myself.”
Entrepreneurs in Action!
cases are written to be open-ended, flexible learning experiences for students. The case provides an introduction and a learning vignette to set the stage for the students. The student groups should carefully read the introduction and the learning vignette. After reading these areas, students should discuss the major issues outlined in the introduction and learning vignette. The students are then faced with the opportunity to develop possible solutions to the problems and opportunities outlined in the case. In some cases, students may find it necessary to seek information from some of the resources listed in the case and are to contact Online Experts early in the opportunity identification. There are no right or wrong answers in these exercises and it is expected that multiple solutions will be developed by different groups. It is also suggested that students not only look at the political, economic and social issues, but to dream about future inventions and/or business opportunities that can derive from the case. The challenge begins with the following questions:
What do you think?
What solutions would you recommend if you were a member of this student team?
What business ventures could be developed from this case?
After raising these questions, the students are free to begin deliberations on possible solutions to the case.
Demographics of small towns
Social factors affecting small town exodus
Arts and cultural cohesiveness
Laws and regulations
Role of government and law in establishing new business
Social resistance to change
Appreciation of town history
1. What types of political problems do you expect?
2. What groups contribute toward community development? How?
3. What other communities have similar issues and how have they addressed them?
4. What makes your town unique?
5. What external issues can arise from development?
City Planning – General
Resource for Urban Design Information (RUDI) "RUDI is a multimedia Internet resource for teaching, research and professional activity in urban design and its related disciplines." Includes links to case studies, bibliographies, urban design journals, and more.
UMRG Internet resource guide (Urban Morphology Research Group) Directory of Web resources relating to urban morphology.
Urban design and new urbanism (Cyburbia) Many links to full text papers & other resources for urban design, the new urbanism, etc.
The Association for Community Design Inc. (ACD) is a national membership organization composed of people who have formed centers dedicated to a development practice with the capacity to combat policies that contribute to the persistence of poverty.
The Pratt Institute Center for Community and Environmental Development (PICCED) was established in 1963 to create a partnership between Pratt Institute's Department of City and Regional Planning and local organizations that were struggling to address issues of urban deterioration and poverty. This is the links page for that organization, which includes many sites that may be relevant to city planning.
City Planning – Other Cities
Consensus Planning - consulting firm in landscape architecture and urban design. Services encompass residential design to large-scale commercial development studies and layout.
Bohanan Huston, Inc. - services include civil design, planning, photogrammetry, surveying, and software development.
Architects Studio - offering planning, architectural and interior design, and construction administration services.
Kells + Craig Architects - projects include community, recreational, cultural, health care, performing arts, banking, and retail facilities, as well as master planning and historic preservation.
nmAPA Online! New Mexico Chapter of the American Planning Association
Sites Southwest -- General information about southwest area planning
Entranco - a multi-service engineering and environmental consulting firm dedicated to meeting the public works, infrastructure, and private development challenges of the West.
Horizons, Inc. specializes in providing leading-edge photogrammetric services. This team of photogrammetrists, engineers, GIS specialists, and mapping technicians provide mapping products, especially aerial photographs.
Business Support Materials
These sources are non-technical and will provide the student with information about how to build a business plan around their ideas for case solutions.
Allbusiness.com – http://allbusiness.com/
One of the most comprehensive sites on the Web for small and growing businesses, this site offers over 2000 articles, “how-to’s,” forms, agreements, questions-and-answers, solutions, and services useful to those starting a new business venture.
Bloomberg.com – http://www.bloomberg.com
One of the leading sites for breaking financial news, investor tools and data, Bloomberg.com gives access to business information, including the latest data and analytical tools.
Bplans.com – http://www.bplans.com
Bplans.com offers a large collection of free sample business plans online and helpful tools and know-how for managing a business. The site includes practical advice on planning, interactive tools, and a panel of experts available to answer specific questions.
The Business Forum Online – http://www.businessforum.com
This service springs from a weekly newspaper column addressing issues and questions of specific interest to entrepreneurs and emerging businesses. Each column focuses on the immediate consequences of the issue to the owner/manager of the emerging business.
MoreBusiness.com – http://www.morebusiness.com
MoreBusiness.com, a comprehensive resource for small businesses, contains tips, articles, ideas, templates, worksheets, sample business plans, tools, financial benchmarks, sample contracts, and websites.
These sites may offer ideas and provide some review articles. Some sites may require a fee. Or you may wish to use the Library for paper copies of current and past articles.
Wall Street Journal- http://www.wsj.com/
The leading daily business newspaper.
A leading business journal.
Harvard Business Review- www.harvardbusinessreview.com/
A leading cutting-edge business journal.
Businessweek.com - http://businessweek.com/
The website of the weekly business magazine, this site offers news and related information for the entrepreneur. An archive of articles is also provided. Some services may require subscription.
www.uspto.gov - Patent and Trademark Office
Excellent source for technical information.
www.sba.gov/ADVO/stats - SBA Office of Advocacy---
Economic Statistics and Research
http://www.sba.gov/ - SBA Small Business Administration---
SBA Support in starting, financing and managing a business
www.bizoffice.com - Small and Home Based Business Links
Provides support services for home-based companies.
www.sbaer.uca.edu - Small Business Advancement National Center---
Resources include newsletters, archives, SBA and other Government sites and related affiliates.
www.bizplan.com - Strategic Business Planning Co.---
The mission of the Strategic Business Planning Co. is to help organizations define their mission and achieve their objectives by developing business and strategic plans and by periodically conducting a comprehensive review of the environment in which they operate.
www.business.gov - U.S. Business Advisor---
U.S. Business Advisor
– a one-stop electronic link to the information and services government provides for the business community—Laws and regulations, forms and support services.
www.census.gov - U.S. Census Bureau---
Resources include population census, economic data, Business surveys, and other related Bureau statistics.
http://www.dowjones.com - Dow Jones – Latest financial information about stock market performance.
www.benlore.com - The Entrepreneur's Mind
The Entrepreneur's Mind is a Web-based resource that presents an array of real-life stories and advice from successful entrepreneurs and industry experts on the many different facets of entrepreneurship and emerging business.
www.entrepreneurmag.com - Entrepreneur Magazine---
Provides solutions for growing businesses
www.engeniussolutions.com - Engineering projects
Provides information about new products and ideas (some student developed).
The Online Experts play an important part in the PBL model, because they connect the learner with an experienced person in the field related to the case. Selecting these individuals is critical to the success of the program, in that they must be willing to respond to students’ e-mails, telephone calls, and/or have meetings with students. Online Experts will be selected at the time the case is implemented in order to be current and to connect to the local environment.
Online Resources and Video Clips
(Under development) Available at: http://entrepreneurship.vanderbilt.edu
Usually the class is divided up into teams of 4-5 people, who are given an opportunity to review the Entrepreneurs in Action! exercise and to develop strategies for solving the situation or to see new ventures. Thus, students work together in small groups and learn a wide variety of skills related to teamwork development, problem identification, resource analysis and synthesis, product or process identification, potential market development, the application of cross-disciplinary thinking, product and process cost analysis, and written and verbal presentation skills. In this model, the case presents the students with an unresolved issue, provides some resources and permits the students to take charge of their own learning and to develop a new business venture out of the given situation.
Several methods may be used to introduce the Entrepreneurs in Action! cases to the class, as follows:
Divide the class into groups and to present the case to each group and permit limited discussions between groups.
Permit a selected number of students to role-play the scenario as a way of introducing the case.
Fishbowl. A small group of students may be requested to sit in the middle of the room and to discuss topics related to the case. The other students would observe and would synthesize the events afterwards.
Students may also be shown selected video clips to start the entrepreneurial thinking process. Some video clips are “The Triumph of the Nerds” series, the “Apprentice” TV show, the “October Sky” movie, “Pirates of Silicon Valley” movie, the “Seabiscuit” movie, or the Public TV version.
Students are expected to participate actively in their groups and to contribute to developing creative ideas for possible business ventures. In doing so, students may be required to learn through reflections. Students can be required to keep a journal of the activities of each group meeting and to record his or her thoughts and comments about the process. Students may also use concept mapping to study the issues and track progress development. IHMConcept Map Software is available free at
The final products to the cases are usually a written business plan and a final oral presentation. The final oral presentation can be given to different groups, such as the local Chamber of Commerce, other business and civic groups, a panel of Online Experts and/or to the class. A rubric is used to judge the creative and entrepreneurial ventures and grades are assigned based on the rubric evaluation. The development of the final product usually follows the outline below.
Phase 1 – Doing the Research
Write a paper on the subject of small town revitalization
, taking into account everything you have learned here. Discuss the pros and cons of the issue and decide where you stand on the various issues that you identify.
Phase 2 – Finding and Developing a Solution
Decide on an appropriate course of action for a small town, one that will result in downtown development without sacrificing the tradition, history and culture of the town. Working with your group, decide on an approach that will include all of the elements of an entrepreneurial venture. Create a business plan for the town, and prepare a presentation of your idea to be judged by a panel of experts, stakeholders, and your peers.
Phase 3 – Taking it Public
Present your idea to a panel of judges, who will represent the town, your teachers and your colleagues. The presentation should be well thought out and should include all six elements of a business feasibility study. It should be presented in such a way as to persuade the panel that your idea will work. You should use a variety of presentation techniques
, such as computer-generated graphics, overhead projection, art, drama, music, or any other appropriate method.
1. Weekly logs
Students will submit a summary of their activities on a regular basis, the frequency of which will be decided by the instructor. The students should include a concise description of the activities and an analysis of their effectiveness. It is suggested that the summary of activities be part of a computer managed instructional program such as Prometheus, Blackboard or others. This allows the instructor and student groups to monitor their weekly progress.
2. In-class observations
Instructors will observe group work and interact in the role of facilitator as needed.
3. Position Paper
The paper required in Phase One will be graded for critical thinking and analytical substance. Instructors will also use the papers to assist in forming like student groups.
4. Teams of peers and visiting experts will evaluate the final presentation for content and appearance of the final product.
1. Business Plan Evaluations
Instructors will evaluate the completed business plans for accuracy, content, breadth, depth, and professional appearance.
2. Presentation Evaluation
Instructors will assess the professionalism of the final presentation, taking into account the content and appearance of the final product.
This work is part of the Forum for Entrepreneurship Education at Vanderbilt University and was support in part by The Coleman Foundation Inc.-- Grant number 4446-- Entrepreneurs in Action!, and The National Science Foundation under Grant No. 0091632 and other related funds. (Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this presentation are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation).