The Internet and Local Economic Development

Eldon ArchThere have been several recent Willits events based on localization and economic development that have re-ignited energy towards building our local economy and establishing community resilience. The Willits Chamber of Commerce brought in a marketing expert to train and inspire our small business owners. WELL hosted an engaging workshop on economic localization. The City of Willits’ main street week long planning event was a brilliant display of community involvement and action. Combined with North Coast Opportunities’ North Coast Farmers Convergence, which brought together the local farming community including retailers and buyers to work through their own localization efforts, it’s been an exciting time.

This energy is reaching a tipping point, and many local people and organizations are poised to seize upon this opportunity.

One of the key themes has been how to effectively use the internet, specifically, digital marketing to grow local business. There’s justifiable concern that the net is taking away from local businesses – and it is.

However, when asking a different question: How can we, as small local business owners, use the internet to build brand awareness, exposure, and sales while bringing business in from the outside? We find different solutions.

Dr. Jed Diamond is a great example of a local business person that’s successfully harnessed the internet and is bringing revenue to the community. His 40 years as a therapist, 14 books, and numerous accolades position him as a worldwide expert in the area of relationships and men’s health. In addition to his writing, he offers one-on-one counseling for individuals and couples. Due to the nature of our small community, his audience of potential local clients is limited.

He and I have been working together over the last few years to address this business concern. We’ve expanded his online audience and have created several products and services to sell both locally and online. His website,, reaches tens of thousands of readers per month and he’s built an email list of over 23,000 subscribers. His social media presence reaches thousands more. The international demand for his services has grown and has resulted in 80% of his clients living outside of the area. As a result, he conducts much of his counseling over the phone and through the internet.

Jed Diamond is utilizing local resources to create a product that will be sold on the internet.

Jed Diamond is utilizing local resources to create a product that will be sold on the internet.

The next project is a day-long in-person intensive workshop titled: The Enlightened Marriage – A Master’s Class for Those Who Still Believe in Love on Saturday, May 14th from 9 am – 3 pm at the Little Lake Grange. The event (here’s the event page on Facebook) is an opportunity to engage with Jed in a small setting to learn from his personal and professional experience on how to create your own enlightened relationship.

In addition, we’re creating a product that we’ll market and sell online. Local videographer Andy Wright will be videotaping the event and he’s helping develop a series of video modules that we’ll sell to our customers. Because of the size of Jed’s existing online audience, we hope to bring in significant revenue.

Here’s the exciting part: We’re partnering with several Willits businesses to create the final product. We hope this video series ends up representing the best of Willits and ends up in front of thousands of people across the world.

Great food is the key to a great event as it sets the entire tone for the experience. Janene Johnson of The Zocalo Collective will be catering the event, and sourcing many of her ingredients from local farmers. We’re renting the kitchen and meeting space from the Little Lake Grange, Patricia Baumann of Design Café will be designing the space and working with Andy to ensure the video is of the highest quality, Tim Ramming and team from Printing Plus have created the promotional graphics and materials, Josh Bowers of Dandelion SEO has assisted with Search Engine Optimization, we’re using the Willits Fan Page Community Fan on Facebook created by Eldon Miller to promote the event, and Jan Rodriguez of the Baechtel Creek Inn is doing cross promotion and marketing to her out-of-town audience. And of course, many of people that attend the workshop will be local residents.

Thousands of dollars in revenue will be created and circulated amongst the community. After this product launch we will make adjustments to create another product, and then we’ll do it again. The result is a revenue model that other local businesses can use.

If you’d like to access world-class training on improving your relationship, this workshop is for you. If you’re a supporter of local economic development this event is for you. Find all the details at or by calling 707 459-5505.

Willits is at a crossroads. There are several major changes underfoot and rigorous debate is taking place on how best to chart our future. It’s a thrill to live in a community that recognizes the challenges that change brings – no one really knows all the answers, but we’re jumping in and figuring it out together.

I, for one, am excited to live in this time of transformative change and I see exciting opportunities. Opportunities to think creatively, opportunities to create partnerships, and opportunities to leverage powerful tools such as the internet to improve the economic and social vitality of our community.

What opportunities do you see?

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Photo Credit: Eldon Miller