Question of the Week: How Do I Start an Import-Replacement Trend in My Neighborhood?


Every week, we take one of the best questions submitted to the Strong Towns Knowledge Base, and we answer it here. This week’s question: How do I start an import-replacement trend in my neighborhood?

The Knowledge Base is a crowd-sourced repository of your questions and answers about how to build a strong town. We on the Strong Towns staff chip in when we can, but we can’t get to everything—which is why we encourage all of our members and readers to head on over and add not only questions, but comments with any additional advice, useful links, or wisdom you have to offer!


Say you live in a neighborhood with a mix of both residential and commercial uses. It has places to dine and drink; however, not every day-to-day need can be met within the neighborhood. For example, maybe residents must leave the neighborhood to find a hardware store, see a dentist, or get a haircut.

Now, imagine your neighbor, working as a barber in the town over, purchases a used barber’s chair and begins offering haircuts in her home. That’s an example of import replacement: creating local services that residents would otherwise have to leave town to obtain.

It cuts neighbors' transportation costs, of course. But more so, it ensures that the community’s capital—their money—stays in the community, creating more local jobs as the trend progresses.

Therein lies the question: if your neighborhood needs a local service, how do you motivate entrepreneurs to create it?

In this article, we’ll share ideas for starting an import-replacement trend in your neighborhood, including: 

  • Knowing what import replacement is (and what it can and can't do)

  • Engaging local entrepreneurs

  • Convincing city leaders