‘Building Blocks’ of a Local Living Economy

Ajax GreeneAt the TEDxLongDock conference in June that Re>Think Local supported, one of the speakers mentioned that there are more than 50 ashrams and spiritual centers in the Hudson Valley. Fifty! On September 23 Re>Think convened around 75 Hudson Valley wellness professionals for a one-day conference at the Omega Institute (one of our members). A personal highlight was when someone referred to the Hudson Valley as the “Buddha Belt.”

It seems there is a simultaneous awakening to the potential of the Hudson Valley as a health and spiritual destination. While Sedona, AZ, Ojai, CA, and others on the west coast are already far along on this path, the east coast is only now lacing up our shoes.

Our wellness conference included speakers from O+ Festival, Rondout Valley Holistic Health Community, and Healthcare as a Human Right — each in their own way finding innovative, collaborative solutions to healthcare challenges we face right here in the Hudson Valley. Their work is so impressive folks from around the country are reaching out to find ways to duplicate these ideas in their region or city. This is the New Economy at its best.

There were some powerful speakers offering great content at the conference, or course, but what made this gathering so special was its commitment to ongoing collaboration. Our tagline is “Co-creating a Better Hudson Valley,” and this was a major step in doing just that.

We intentionally set aside time for a moderated group discussion. Babs Moley, owner of River Rock Health Spa, has stepped forward as a passionate advocate of growing the Hudson Valley as a branded destination for world-class health and spiritual renewal. Don’t fret if you weren’t there; there is still plenty of opportunity to become engaged with this exciting collaborative endeavor. And there is room for all: from solo practitioners to larger business. There is a meeting being planned for mid-November. Follow Re>Think Local on Facebook and subscribe to our free newsletter on our website (rethinklocal.org) to get future announcements.

A more traditional way to describe what we in the Localism movement call a “building block” of a local economy is an “industry cluster.” (I’ll bet most massage therapists and the like have no idea that they are an industry, not to mention a cluster.) Historically ignored by traditional economic developers as too small to be relevant, acting in collaboration these wellness professionals may be one of the most vibrant aspects of the Hudson Valley economy going forward. Yeah!

And there are many more potential building blocks of a local living economy in the Hudson Valley (media, arts, manufacturing, lodging, alternative energy, banking/finance, and soloprenuers, to name a few). Which do you think we should focus on bringing together next? Two suggestions we have thought about for 2014: restaurants (farm to table and the like) and green building. Are you interested in taking a leadership role? Let us know.

We believe now is a time for optimism; we collectively just need to show up. Collaboration is a hallmark of the New Economy, the path forward. For many of us that have been raised on competition, collaboration is a new skill we need to learn. Be patient with yourself, as we are all going through this transition together. Be patient (can you hear me speaking to myself here?) with those you want to collaborate with who might not be “getting it” the way you hoped.

One good way forward is to attend a Re>Think Local event so you can connect and collaborate with like-minded movers and shakers — just like the wellness professionals at our conference who decided the time to succeed was now. Many of us prefer the slower pace of the Hudson Valley to the hyper-driven pace of the City or even Westchester. Slower is good; asleep, not so much. It is these kinds of community conversations that foster change and growth in directions that work for all of us, no matter which building block we are in.

Reminder: We’re surveying Hudson Valley businesses to compare the economic multiplier effect of spending at local independents with that of major corporate chains. If you have an independent restaurants or retail store (selling physical goods) in Dutchess, Ulster, or Orange County, please participate in Re>Think’s Indie Impact Study. Details on the website.

This originally appeared in my regular “Tales of a Hudson Valley Localist” column in the print edition of Country Wisdom News, November 2013.

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