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It’s easy for municipalities to see local businesses as just entries on a spreadsheet. But five years ago, the city of Sacramento, Calif., began kicking its economic development officers out of their cubicles from time to time to knock on doors, and meet business owners to learn about their needs face-to-face.

Today such “business walks” are increasingly common in Canada, especially in British Columbia, where 45 municipalities staged walks in just the last three months of 2015. “You’re having that personal conversation,” says Dale Wheeldon, president and CEO of the B.C. Economic Development Association. “You’re developing that relationship, so you’re hearing a lot more than what you would hear if you’re sending out a survey.”

Just as important, business walks act as a reality check for local governments, Wheeldon says, building trust and busting myths. Meeting with firms that already invest and create jobs in their area “encourages communities to focus on the assets they already have, rather than on the assets some other communities have.”

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Would you participate in a business walk? Would you like your local government to start doing them? Let us know by commenting below.

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