Although the leaves haven’t really started dropping just yet, I have noticed a few trees that are getting an early jump on fall. I love this time of year, but I always think it is a little bit of a bummer as all of the leaves fall from the trees. They are beautiful as they are changing colors, but when they are all gone, you know what is coming next. That’s one of the nice things about spring…the renewal. All of the leaves that were lost come back, and it is like they were never really gone at all.
Looking around our little town, there are still some leaves missing, but the tree has started to bud back out just a bit. Buildings are coming up all around, filling empty lots that have served as painful reminders and empty branches for the past 2 years.
While the new development is exciting and encouraging, it is hard not to notice the empty lots right in the core of our central business district. Retail has been a little slower to recover since the tornado, and nowhere is that more evident than Main Street. There’s more than one article’s worth to be written about the myriad reasons those lots remain empty, but the concise version is simply this: money.
Land is costlier now than it was “back in the day”. Materials and construction are more expensive…utilities are higher…help is higher…the cost of goods to stock a business are higher. Add to this a greater level of uncertainty about what types of businesses can even survive in this box-store world, and it is a pretty bad recipe for retail in small towns, particularly ones where retail space is limited or non-existent.
I’ve seen some good discussions about this issue on Facebook over the past week or so, and I plan to reach out to a few of those folks to see if they would mind me grabbing some of their thoughts and sharing them on here. This is a discussion that is extremely important to our future, and I think it needs as many participants as possible. I will try this week to start a series of articles related to this issue, and I hope some of you out there reading will contribute any new thoughts and ideas you have, as well.
During this recovery process, the interest in getting the public’s input seems like it has fluctuated between severely lacking and non-existent. We haven’t really been invited to the table, so instead of helping shape the way things could go, we only find out about the way things are going. At that point, we can either complain about it or just shut up and accept it, neither of which is very appealing. That pattern needs to change, and I don’t think it is too late to change it.
There are some good things happening within some newer, smaller groups currently that have the potential to be very exciting for our little town. I think it is entirely possible that the best solutions to some of our current problems will be found in a more grassroots-based movement. That being said, we cannot discount the importance of us at least having a seat at the government table, as well. No one person or group should try to carry the burden of solving all of this…it is far too complex to pull apart and reassemble without a little help from others.
So what are some of your thoughts about how we can begin to build a solid and sustainable retail base here in our town? Don’t worry if you don’t have any answers just yet. I plan to carry on this discussion here for a while, so start jotting down those ideas. Who knows…the best one may be lurking right inside your head! =)