Tell you what…. Let’s have everyone who says, “Why don’t they…(whatever it is about the rebuilding needed on Garrettsville’s Main St.) or “They need to…(suggestions for operations to be carried out to restore Main St.) or “They ought to…(directions on how to accomplish the rebuilding of half of Garrettsville’s business district), everyone who utters one of these or similar comments should toss one thousand dollars in the pot for each repetition of said comments and show up at a council meeting—cash in hand—to get things started.
Much as we might like to think so, wishing will not make things happen. That role goes to cold, hard cash. As one local businessman said recently, “It’s not like Field of Dreams, no bank around here…or much of anywhere, really…is going to say, ‘If you build it, they will come,’ and pony up the financing needed to begin putting new businesses on that space. They want business plans; they want collateral. They want infrastructure—water and sewer, electrical hook-ups (Could we go underground for a really clean look?), zoning approvals, that kind of stuff. They want to see design proposals, county input, community interest.
The old buildings that burned were “grandfathered in” to meet—just barely—health and safety regulations. The cosmetic effects were just great, the place looked just antique enough and just charming enough and “just what we want” enough to draw customers across quite a spectrum…and while these people were in town they’d say, “Oh, let’s stop for lunch,” or “Oh, let’s look over in this store,” or “Oh isn’t this cute! Let’s get two,” or “Oh let’s look around,” or “Oh, let’s come back soon.” And they did come back; and downtown Garrettsville was doing pretty well. Then the fire came too.
The hoops that must be jumped through, in this day and age, are vastly more complicated than when those old structures went up. The Americans with Disabilities Act has gone into effect and virtually all new buildings must be accessible to virtually all citizens—ramps, elevators, doorways, restrooms. Second and third floors are particularly challenging—think fire exits. Is all of this necessary? Afraid so, if you want to attract the public…and public or private money…and get official approval for construction. There are regulations about fireproofing and the type of materials that may be used and all kinds of things. Not nearly as attractive as creaking wooden floors or hand-hewn beams or nineteenth-century entertainment venues, but still required by law. Cheap? Not on your tintype!
And then there’s revenue. Money isn’t everything but it’s way ahead of whatever’s in second place in situations like this. With one third to one half of the commercial income of Main Street now gone missing and the remainder suffering from what might be called, in some cases of suit for civil damage, a “loss of consortium” (Often in cases of death of a spouse : the consequence of which being that he lost her (It’s always her) society and services—whatever those might be). Businesses interact with each other just as individuals do. Some businesses draw customers from a wide base; other businesses benefit from their success. When the business revenue and subsequent tax revenue goes down, property taxes are bound to be called upon to take up the slack. One hundred thousand dollars can’t be taken from the police department every year. Public safety will suffer, eventually the schools will suffer, then the property values will suffer. Can we all say—together now—“Vicious cycle”?
So, let’s get cracking on this. Some effort at community economic development will be vital to getting back to the level of progress Garrettsville had attained before March 24, 2014. Instead of waiting until “they” get something going, let’s all do what we can to attract and support new businesses. Let’s get out and look for companies and commercial enterprises interested in opening or relocating; we do have an industrial park with space available. Let’s negotiate. Let’s spend some money to make some money. Local money is the same color as outside money; let’s get out there and make some offers. Standing on the street corner cooing, “Hey Sailor….” isn’t going to do much but a genuine sales pitch from an eager and interested community might.
Got a rich uncle in the wings somewhere? Tell him to call.