Francis Koster: Rescuing Your Local Economy

"Locally there are lots of nice, tidy, quarter-of-a-million-dollar investments sitting there that the large companies will not do because their overhead is too high. So one of my themes is look in your own backyard -- focus on fiscally-conservative, sound investments and focus on local employment. You will be surprised at the opportunity that just leaps out at you."

So says Francis Koster, author of the new books Rescuing Your Local Economy and Rescuing School Kids who specializes in identifying community investment opportunities that offer attractive returns for the capital provider as well as long-term benefits for the local residents. Chris and I have interviewed Francis several times over the past few years and are continually impressed by his inventive and scrappy approach to finding fresh, sustainable solutions for many of the long-term Three E challenges we face. He's one of the voices we respect out there at the vanguard, identifying real answers to today's structural problems.

In this podcast, Francis highlights a number of the case studies he's collected at his website, The Optimistic Futurist, where motivated individuals have improved their local schools, roads, food, water supply, etc. while earning double-digit returns. These models can be adopted in nearly any community, which is the purpose behind Francis' work.

Here's just one example: 

Most of these locally implementable solutions will appeal to the entire political spectrum. Local officials and civil servants are desperate to find things that bring the extreme ends of the political continuum together.

For example, if you talk about hoping to foster local small business, everybody is familiar with the notion of a gift card. You can go into any of the major pharmacies or large box stores and buy a gift card. Some communities have made local gift cards that are good at any local owner-operated store. So if there’s a local bookstore, local dry cleaner, local food market and so on and so forth, each of them joins the local gift card network and agrees to accept the gift card.

And what the research has shown is that if a shopper comes in with a local gift card, they typically spend 40% more than the gift card has as face value. So by agreeing to accept a local gift card, small businesses entice people to come in and then they spend 40% more. And all of that money stays local.

Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Francis Koster (59m:51s)

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Good job on the podcast, very inspiring.
It would be great to have you (Chris) do a podcast or write up on your home schooling experience. I've recently kept my four year old out of pre-kindergarten for a variety of reasons. We worked with him for a set amount of time each day and so far so good. I've come to realize that kids can learn without the help of school. Take for example how they learn to talk without any schooling or formal teaching. 

Keep up the good work.

Thank you for this interview! I'll be requesting both books from the library. (My day job is in a small private school.)
@cowtown2011 - definitely look into home schooling to see if it is a fit for your family. We have successfully homeschooled five children K-12. I'm defining success as the fact that three of the five received some type of college degree, the fourth a one-year certificate in her field of interest. The fifth is still considering his post high-school options.

Great info for building community!

Great interview…one of the best yet. Who can argue against hand washing when the results are demonstrated. Francis is a real solution oriented guy…I'm buying both his books and can't wait to share with my teacher friends.  Got a little confused on the solar investment scheme …would appreciate one of you money guys to explain that one in detail…Almost sounded too good to be true.