SAVE THE DATE: 2019 ABCD Annual Meeting Date and Speaker Announced

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Ever wonder why you go back to a certain place over and over? What makes a building, business or civic space so inviting? Why is it easier to meet new people and build social networks in some places more than others? If you just take those places and experiences for granted, you might want to rethink that.

Unique locations or “Third Places” are critically important in today’s overall community and economic development efforts. They are where people come together, work remotely, socialize, share an idea, find a new hire or launch a new business. They help to attract and retain next generation talent and investors.

Over the past several years, our First Frontier Blair County mountain main streets have seen many of these new places take shape in the form of coffee shops, local craft breweries, restaurants, parks and civic gathering spaces. They can be old, new, or revamped in just a different way. Whatever their form, we know they are important. That is why our 2019 annual meeting will highlight the role these special places play in economic development.

Join us on Friday, May 24, from 7:30 am 9:00 am, at the Blair County Convention Center, when we welcome an expert who has looked carefully into the impact these places have in our economy. Dr. Neil Reid, who is warmly regarded internationally as “The Beer Professor,” will lead a keynote discussion titled “Where Community Convenes: Coffee Shops, Breweries and Other Great Third Places.”

Neil is a regional scientist and industrial geographer at the University of Toledo. His research interest is on local economic development in former industrial cities. In a recent blog post, Neil framed the importance of “Third Places” by highlighting the rise and importance of the local craft brewery movement (read the excerpt below):

In 1989, Ray Oldenburg, an American urban sociologist, published a book titled The Great Good Place. The subtitle of the book was informative and really conveyed the essence of Oldenburg’s ideas. The subtitle was Cafes, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons, and Other Hangouts at the Heart of a Community. In this book, and in his subsequent work, Oldenburg writes about the importance of what he calls “third places” in American culture. According to Oldenburg, Americans occupy three distinct spaces as they go about living their lives – first places (homes), second places (work places), and third places (places outside of home or work, where people congregate and interact with their peers).

Stuart M. Butler and Carmen Diaz, writing for The Brookings Institution, describe Third Places as “locations where we exchange ideas, have a good time, and build relationships.” As the subtitle of Oldenburg’s book suggest, the types of venues that can serve as Third Places are wide ranging and run the gamut from cafes to hair salons.

Oldenburg identifies seven characteristics of Third Places. According to him:

– Third Places are neutral meeting places,
– Third places are inclusive and everyone is welcome; no one is excluded,
– Conversation is the main activity,
– Third Places have regulars; people who go there on a regular basis,
– Third Places are physically plain and have an unpretentious ambience,
– In Third Places, the mood is playful and wit is prized,
– Third a Places are a home away from home.

Oldenburg’s devotes three chapters to three types of Third Place where beer was important – the German beer garden in nineteenth century America, the English Pub, and the American tavern…When (he) published his classic work in 1989, I suspect that craft breweries were not on his radar. In 1989, there were only 215 craft breweries in the United States…

All across the United States, craft breweries are (now) providing opportunities for people of like mind to come together and be a community (or rather lots of different communities). Craft breweries are designed with the larger community in mind. The space they occupy is often flexible; within a few minutes it can be transformed, for example, into a yoga studio. It is the place where Dads take their pre-schoolers to hear a story, do a craft, and enjoy a snack. It is the place where local fiber artists meet to enjoy a beer, socialize, and do some crocheting and knitting. Craft breweries all across the United States have become the meeting place for a plethora of different groups, engaged in a vast variety of activities.…

Colin Rath, co-owner of Migration Brewing in Portland, OR has a degree in Community Development from Portland State University. It was while studying for this degree that he heard about Oldenburg’s Third Places. When he opened Migration in 2010, he envisioned that it would be a Third Place, for those living in the neighborhood. In discussing his brewery Rath stares that:

“What we’ve created is what’s known as a third space…[Migration is] a place for the community to come together, that hosts the community and a place that engages with the community and helps facilitate other people’s dreams and aspirations. It’s a place for people to celebrate, to mourn, to raise money for a cause or whatever their thing may be.”

Learn more about Dr. Reid, his research, writings and background by visiting his blog and website. We invite you attend and hear how Third Places of all types are helping to change our live-work experience here in the First Frontier Blair County. Save the date or just register now by clicking here.

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