Big Ideas for Small Cities



The Big Ideas for Small Cities series serves as a platform for small city officials to share compelling and creative ideas that they have used to drive change in their communities. These TEDx-style talks are meant to inspire local leaders to think "big" for their small cities.

What Is a Small City?

Traditionally, a "small city" is a city with a population of under 50,000.  As an organization that represents over 19,000 municipalities, the National League of Cities recognizes that these communities comprise the backbone of our country.

What Makes a Big Idea, Big?

With smaller budgets, part-time city staff, and a state and national focus on larger cities, America's small cities often face challenges that require unique and innovative solutions.  From converting vacant and abandoned buildings into industrial complexes and movie sets to partnering with private sector consultants to nurture small business development, city officials are thinking outside of the box to make real change happen.

> Submit a speaker application for the 2017 Big Ideas Series.

Auburn Growth Strategy

Learn from Mayor Nancy Backus how the City of Auburn sought to stimulate development in its city center, using infrastructure projects financed through alternative means in the absence of any tax increment financing options (TIF) available under Washington State law.

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Bedford Historic Downtown Revitalization

Learn from Mayor Stan Koci how the city of Bedford, OH, used its business incubator, known as the Bedford Catalyst, as a key tool to fill vacant store fronts with a diverse retail industry (including pop-up stores) and preserve Bedford's historic downtown image.

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Brookings Crowdsourcing Creativity

Councilmember Scott Meyer shares his city’s Creative Fest, a crowd-sourcing event held annually to ensure that Brookings remains the “Creative Capital of the North.”

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Caldwell Youth Master Plan

Learn from Mayor Garret Nancolas how the City of Caldwell is better serving its youth population through its P16 Program in cooperation with local institutions, the centerpiece of a Youth Master Plan.

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Gaithersburg Book Festival

Learn from Mayor Jud Ashman how city leaders from Gaithersburg, MD, sought to raise the prominence and economic prowess of Gaithersburg through creation of a world class book festival.

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Jacksonville’s Freedom Day

Although North Carolina is synonymously known as “first in flight” it also became “first in freedom” on April 12, 1776. On this day in history, the colony of North Carolina took a stand and defeated the British loyalists to ascertain its freedom from British governance. Approximately 89 years later on December 18, 1865, the adoption of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. Albeit, not mentioned by our founding fathers, human trafficking is the modern day form of slavery including recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring of persons by methods of coercion, abduction, deception, or abuse of power over vulnerable persons for the purposes of exploitation.

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Lauderdale Lakes Economic Revival

Acting City Manager Danny Holmes has big ideas about how economic development in his rapidly growing city can be replicated by other small cities.

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Maricopa Citizen Advocacy

Learn from Mayor Christian Price how the City of Maricopa, Arizona (incorporated in 2003) sought to improve its recession torn image after a massive boom and bust housing cycle, by encouraging its citizens to be advocates for the place they call home.

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Mooresville Technology Infrastructure

Commissioner Lisa Qualls speaks about the role technology has played in placing her small town in North Carolina at the front of technological innovation.

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Neighbors Neighborly!

Learn more about how the City of Littleton, CO has implemented a program for Dispute Resolution that provides an option for neighbors and businesses to reach a sustaining, mutually agreed path forward. And how citizen volunteers are engaged, and first responders are informed so that responsible adult behavior is encouraged and reinforced.

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Papillion-La Vista Unified Fire Department

Mayor David Black of Papillion and Mayor Douglas Kindig of La Vista co-present on how these growing communities merged fire departments in an effort to address their shared needs through inter-municipal collaboration.

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Salem for All Ages

Mayor Driscoll has prioritized thoughtful planning and careful fiscal practices, to help make Salem the great city that it is today. A key part of that planning is around how to prepare Salem for the rapidly increasing share of its population that is over the age of 50. With a belief that a community that is thoughtfully planned for older residents also benefits residents of all other ages, Salem rolled up its sleeves in 2015 and is now completing a comprehensive action plan – Salem for All Ages – that covers the eight priorities of an age-friendly city.

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Smart Growth in Artesia

Mayor Canales presents his plan to drive smart growth in his Southern California community. By improving walkability and constructing more public space, he hopes to spur economic development.

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Superior Diverging Diamond Interchange

Mayor Clint Folsom shares how a revolution in transportation infrastructure, a diverging-diamond interchange, is expected to reduce traffic and accidents along a busy highway in Colorado.

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Tom Tom Founders Festival

Mission – 1) Celebrate 2) Connect Resources 3) Leave Legacies.
Tom Tom’s mission is to celebrate and empower the founders of creative, civic, and entrepreneurial projects.

The Tom Tom Foundation exists to inspire a future for Charlottesville that sparks a new generation of Founders and contemporary innovators, who shape the future of Charlottesville, and the nation.

Charlottesville, VA

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Union City Film Industry Attraction

Learn from Mayor Vince Williams how the city of Union City, GA, sought to create a vision for a 90-acre lot site following the closing of a large anchor-employer (Union Station Shannon Mall), and has been working with the film industry to bring a $100 million project to fill the vacancy.

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