The following was contributed to NA Confidential by a local resident who chooses to use the pen name of Orlando Poe. While it is true that since this blog’s inception, I have stated a general preference for full disclosure, exceptions have been allowed, and this is one. Orlando's real identity is known.
The thoughts reprinted below seem ideal as a discussion starter even if I don’t agree in lock step with each and every one.
There are many issues facing New Albany at this moment:
· Realizing that we’re all in this together and we had better resolve to work together to save downtown New Albany and the community as a whole.
· Realizing that no one faction, organization or group – be it private sector, public sector or nonprofit sector – has the answers to the problems facing New Albany.
· The private sector has a role to play and a responsibility to step up when it comes to rebuilding downtown; just as much as city government has a similar responsibility. The private sector must understand its responsibility to take the lead in many instances in rebuilding downtown. We should not expect the new administration to be all things to all people. They have a role to play, but do not have all the answers. And the new administration should realize that very same point. It should know what it doesn’t know; and know when to turn to others for answers. The new administration should not expect to be host to the only ideas and programs designed to bring back downtown.
· The new administration must understand the private sector is allowed to organize and should encourage the private and nonprofit sectors to create their own agendas and programs of work for rebuilding downtown New Albany. The new administration has much on its plate and can’t be expected to be everywhere or do everything for everybody. There is more to New Albany than just the downtown and the new administration will have to address issues in other neighborhoods and parts of the city. That shouldn’t mean efforts in the downtown stop. All three sectors must work together on developing a comprehensive plan to bring the downtown back.
· Downtown New Albany will never return to what it once was, and why would we want it to? Instead of looking at the past, look to the future and see what we can build here and now – and tomorrow. What was good enough for our parents should not be what we settle for when it comes to us.
Let us then begin: What is “Economic Development”?
Is it just bringing jobs into a community, or is it more; for instance, “Community Development”?
I posit that Economic Development is more the latter. Bringing jobs into the local community is economic development. But it is so much more. We must begin looking at community development as economic development. We must think in terms of public arts programs, neighborhood development and other programs when we think of economic development.
In 2007, downtown New Albany had a wonderful spring and summer; new businesses came in and existing businesses spruced up their facades. Things were looking up. Then came the fall and winter months; to date, we have lost two local restaurants, and one wonders when a third will announce its closing. There is a second beauty salon opening on Pearl Street; and a second arts gallery operating in the same area on an appointment basis. We appear to have run willy-nilly in bringing in businesses that may not have had the following we originally believed.
Don’t get us wrong.
We (the royal “We”) should welcome all comers and offer to do what we can within our limited means to help them succeed. But shouldn’t we be looking at an expanded local economy instead of putting our eggs in a limited basket? How do we know New Albany will support these businesses? Instead of bringing in a business just in order to give someone a commission – only for it to go out of business a few months later – shouldn’t we find out what kinds of businesses the downtown and surrounding neighborhoods will support? How do we do that? We do need to look after our reputation. If downtown gets the reputation of being unable to support new or existing businesses, we might as well shut down shop now. We also need to understand that Scribner Place is not going to be the panacea to the problems of New Albany. Instead, it is one piece of a larger puzzle.
Should we encourage those who know how, to find out what types of businesses New Albany will and can support, and then pursue them? How do we do that? Should the city and/or nonprofits – or the two groups working together - have an aggressive local economic development recruitment program?
What is the best avenue to keep the downtown alive? Increase foot traffic? How do we accomplish that? What projects or programs would being more people downtown and make them get out of their cars?