Enter to WIn
So you entered your town into the BEST TOWN CONTEST and you lost. Seems that there were many other towns who entered the competition with lots more of exactly what the Judges were looking for. So your defense-response is, "wait a minute! We love our town and how could we not do well in a Best Town comparison?"
Therein lies one of the biggest problems I see in the way that smaller towns approach economic development. First of all, you go after every prize when you are not realistically qualified for every race. That's because there is an infinite number of BEST TOWN contests, but no two are the same. Each panel of judges is different, each looking for the best in very specific categories. In other words, every business prospect has a different score sheet. The "must haves" for smaller businesses are different from larger ones. The type of business also points toward specific workforce requirements, service business needs, geographic proximity to suppliers and customers. Start-ups are looking for other characteristics of your business environment to assure that they can get through the difficult formation phase. Each prospective resident also has a specific list that leads to winners and losers. Everyone who is not a native is able to finish the sentence, "we moved here because..............." You too should pursue opportunities "because" you have what the the decision-makers are looking for.
There is a cause and effect to how you compete and win. I always liked the idea that "if" your community had a resume, who would hire you (your town)? On the other side of that equation is that you should present your resume (your town) only to those who are looking for what you offer in terms of meeting the unique needs of the employer. This is whoever who gets to choose, each company, each individual, each family, even tourists who are looking at where they want to go invest time and money.
Knowing what makes your town stand apart and above the rest then allows for you to enter competitions with a strong assurance that you will rank high on the judges scorecards, This strategic approach leads to more wins, rather than disappointments. Also less wasted resources chasing what you can't likely catch. Some call it a rifle approach. You could also call it a smart approach, and you would be right.