Small towns can provide big opportunities.

That will be the theme keynote speaker Jason Duff, founder and CEO of Small Nation, will address during Visit Gahanna's annual meeting.

The program will be at noon Wednesday, March 18, at La Navona, 154 N. Hamilton Road.

Duff, a Dublin resident, will share stories of revitalization during his presentation, "Building Collective Collaboration for Hometown Opportunities."

Duff, 38, said he would discuss how small towns are big opportunity.

Being near the Easton Town Center, he said, there are ways to distinguish what Gahanna already has.

When he heard Gahanna was known as the Herb Capital of Ohio, Duff said, he thought that was "something cool" and he wanted to know more.

"I think locals are aware of that," he said. "It's interesting and would give me a reason to visit and understand more about it. Every town has a unique feature or something that makes it weird, funny or distinctive. We need to find out what those qualities are and tell the world about it."

In seven years, Duff and his Small Nation team helped revitalize the city of Bellefontaine.

Duff, who grew up at Indian Lake, said Bellefontaine is within driving distance from where he and his team are from.

"It was struggling," he said of that city. "We descended upon it. We use it as an example."

"Using their 'Hustle Hard' approach, they have managed to renovate more than 30 historic buildings that had been sitting empty for decades," according to the Small Nation website, smallnationstrong.com.

"Once the buildings were complete, they recruited tenants for 14 new business concepts; strategically identified to bring repeat commerce and animation to their downtown area."

Those businesses created jobs for more than 190 local employees, according to the website.

Duff said he would share some lessons and examples of working together and doing promotion to get the word out about what makes a small town unique.

"What we like about Gahanna is that it's a small town in a metro area," he said. "There are some great features and assets that lend itself to building up that community of entrepreneurs and connecting businesses.

"There are ways to make cities attractive to those entrepreneurs to lease spaces."

Duff said he leads his team in developing places, spaces and dreams for small towns and small-town entrepreneurs across the country.

He said a renaissance is underway for some small towns.

For example, Whit's Frozen Custard started in Granville in 2003, Duff said.

Now Whit's has 54 locations in eight states.

"If it wasn't for innovators, we wouldn't benefit from that brand," he said. "Making small towns better is what we try to do and enjoy doing."

"We're looking forward to hearing Jason speak about the success of Small Nation's collaborative efforts," said Lori Kappes, director of Visit Gahanna. "Additionally, we'll be sharing some of Visit Gahanna's 2019 successes and announcing the winners of our annual partner awards."

The annual lunch meeting is open to the public. Tickets cost $25 per person in advance, $30 per person at the door and $200 for a table of eight.

Tickets are available at visitgahanna.com.

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla