These days, there are a lot of concerns that the small town way of life is going away. The concern is for the economy of the small town way of life. Revitalizing a small town is paramount to its success and longevity. Small town living is mostly desirable. You know just about everyone and at times that comes with everyone knowing your business. The hustle and bustle of city life have no home here. But the success of a small town is not only the people but the businesses. Do small towns make bad choices when they lease out buildings? Absolutely. If you lived in a small town back in the 50’s and 60’s, before, say a big highway was built and redirecting traffic, your town was booming.
Maybe it had all the shops you’d ever need. It had a transportation center with buses to take you where you need to go. But, the highway came and opened up the world. You knew that road would take you to shops your town didn’t have.
One of the mistakes that I see towns making is the redundancy of businesses. You have four gas stations, three law offices, five banks, four tax offices and three or four cell phone companies. Anyone see the mistakes? That’s right. What town need so many of the same type of business??? I’m not saying that these types of offices and businesses aren’t needed. They are! But so many of the same take up a lot of space. Space that small towns cannot afford. They all have their own space, leaving no space for retail or restaurants. How many people are going to come in daily to see lawyers or tax accountants?
One of the suggestions I would make is coworking spaces. Combine these offices to share building space. Customers aren’t going to change lawyers or cell phone companies just because it’s easier in one office. In a small town, you’re only 20 – 1,500 feet from one another. If they didn’t like the provider, it’s not inconvenient to change. This will also help the overhead for these businesses because they are sharing the cost of the office space. No brainer, right???
By combining space, this opens up locations for other businesses that residents may want, to come in. Clothing store, a small movie theater, diner or anything else. Don’t get me wrong. I am totally not encouraging the towns to open up a Target or Applebee’s in the middle of town. As much as I LOVE those places, they are not a good fit to the look and feel of a small town. Unless they can fit into the historic town look. You know, maybe a smaller scale that will fit into the pre-existing buildings. Oh hey! Target and Applebee’s, you can steal my idea. I don’t mind :). Do you know how much money those stores would make then?
By opening up these spaces, the towns will allow new businesses to come in. Residents who dream of opening their businesses can do it this way. They may not want to open a larger store, so they too can share spaces. Sharing is caring, right? There should be no fear of other businesses stealing their customers. Customers will either love or hate your product.
It boils down to, communities need to invest in themselves if they want to continue to survive and keep the younger generations wanting to stay. The town needs to be desirable while maintaining the small town charm. Is it going to be easy? Nope. There’s going to be a lot of work to do. A lot of money will need to be raised. But the end result will be worth it.
There are many success stories of revitalizing a small town. It gives me encouragement to encourage other towns not to give up hope. Including my own small town of Oxford, PA. I love the town and the feel. But, as with most towns, it has its struggles when they try to do the right thing. No town is going to have 100% happiness or agree with what the town council decides to do. But the council should also listen to what the people have to say.