Learning Adventures in Citizenship
Episode 1Topic 6
Quiz the Biz
In the early 19th century, New York was a great place to do business. Ambitious people made opportunities for themselves and at the same time turned New York into one of the main centers of commerce in America. Visionaries like Alexander Hamilton, for instance, took steps to make sure New York became the financial capital of the whole country.

Thinking About Trade
Thinking Icon

In this activity, you will investigate how your own community is doing, businesswise and in other areas, and come up with a "report card" that "grades" it in these different areas. Then, you will use your new insights to predict how it is likely to do in the future!

Deciding What To Look For

The first thing to do is to figure out what aspects of your community you will look at, for signs of strength or a need for improvement. You might want to look at how strong or weak you community is in its: businesses and economy, rates of employment and job creation, people's civic involvement, racial/ethnic relations, the quality of the schools, etc. Many of these areas affect other areas -- for instance, good schools graduate kids with more skills they can use working in local businesses; and strong arts programs can attract big companies by making the area more desirable for the company's employees to live in.

Once you have decided, make a list of questions to refer to.

Let's say you have decided to focus mostly on the strength of the local economy and local businesses. Some of the kinds of challenges your community might be facing could be: local industries shutting down, malls in other areas attracting all the shoppers and causing local stores to close, so much crime in the area that businesses are afraid to open there, large companies moving elsewhere, etc. Or, some of its strengths could be: a good location (such as being near universities that do industry-related research), a strong tourism industry, a large pool of people who have skills in a business area that is "hot" (like computers), foreign investment in local factories, etc.

Ask Around

Now, it's time to get started rating your community. Most towns and cities have a chamber of commerce. As a first step, you might call the chamber of commerce (they will be in the phone book), tell them what you are doing, and ask for ideas for other business-related groups you might interview.

You could also contact local business groups like the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, and so on. (Check the phone book again.)

Call your local newspaper and ask for the business editor. Ask him or her if the paper has recently done a "business round-up"-type article.

If so, what does it say?

Interview community government officials like the mayor, city council members, and so on (call your City or Town Hall to find out how to contact them). Ask them what they think are the business and economic challenges facing the community, and what its strengths are.

To get a well-rounded picture, talk to different community groups and see what each of their takes on the situation is. For example, the local chamber of commerce may give you a different slant on things than an organization for minority-owned businesses. Different neighborhood groups may have different perspectives.

What Did You Find

Since you probably know a lot more than when you started about your community's strengths and weaknesses, you can make a prediction of how things are likely to go in the future!

Is anyone addressing the challenges? Do the problems seem to be getting better or worse? Are more local businesses opening than are going out of business?

Where do YOU think your community is headed?

Share Your Report

A report card is a great way of summarizing how you think your community is doing.

When you think you have a good picture of how things are going in your community, write it up -- use the report-card format, as in the following example, then share the report card.

AreaHow Is It Doing?
(Grade A, B, C, D, or F)
Local Small Businesses (markets, cleaners, independent stores, etc.)

Local Large Businesses (big companies, chain stores, etc.)

Local Industries (manufacturing, farming, lumber, mining, etc.)

Jobs Available

New Job Creation


Quality of Life
Quality of Schools

Culture (music, art, theater)

Race/Ethnic Relations

Quality of Housing



Recreational Opportunities

Final Grade