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Are WE hurting our own Adirondack Communities?

July 16, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
Are we inadvertently shunning independent small businesses and thus our own communities and not even realizing it?

Is our: 1. Age 2. Overwhelming information and 3. World of instant gratification

hurting our independent small businesses? If that is true will all the recent talk about “smart growth,” “economic development funds,” and “consensus building” for naught?

What, are you kidding me?

That’s what we need: development funds, planning and consensus building. We have been saying that for years. The thinking goes that the environmental community has all the resources and our communities and businesses have little.

But are these real solutions or just tools?

What if all the plans and consensus building in the world does not attract today’s customer?

Are there some root substantive issues that we are too afraid to address such as:

1. Are we trying to help businesses that today’s customer may not want? 2. Can all of our communities survive if this is the case? 3. Is there really such thing as an Adirondack “Park”?

What might be some of these root issues we may need to think about before we use some of these funds and planning tools? Here are a few to get you thinking.

Our Age

We have one of the oldest populations in the country. Overall, our median age in the United States is also increasing,

What has that got to do with some of our towns in the Adirondacks potentially suffering the ghostly fate of some other rural communities?

Do we remember when we were younger; we seem to take more chances? Whether we were naive or just didn’t think past today. We were looking for adventure, having fun dating, and exploring life.

We didn’t seem to have the hoard of news about everything that was wrong with the world. It seemed to be a simpler life. It seemed we had more time to explore.

Overwhelming Information

Has both our age and all of this information of what may happen driven us into a “consumer shell”?

At an unprecedented time in history where we can read, hear and see all about our world - has that helped turn us into conservative beings too afraid to take chances?

As we hear about what is wrong or what can go wrong from a lawnmower to eating the wrong foods, are we taking the “safe” option?

When we go on vacation now and visit some unknown place, has our youthful sense of adventure turned into a bit of apprehension? As we visit these vacation spots are we choosing the safe name brand restaurant or hotel or are we willing to take a chance on the unknown (and fictitious!) “Bob’s Motel” or “Mary’s Diner”?

Last week I traveled to Ithaca for my daughter’s college orientation. There is no good way to get there so I decided each time to take a different route through the Adirondacks. I was appalled at the number of small businesses that had closed. For nearly 25 years I traveled these roads when I was doing the community development gig but even I could not believe how much many of these businesses had closed.

But what really caught my attention was that many empty buildings that I passed were independent small businesses.

What Happened?

Could one answer be that as we have become an older population not only here but as a country, we are becoming more cautious? As we become inundated with all that is wrong with the world we have become too apprehensive?

Is this leading to more “safe” and recognizable choices?

Since we don’t know “Mary’s Diner” or “Bob’s Motel,” do we opt for a choice we are familiar with?

Instant Gratification

Yes, we can hit the on-line review sites and ask the “locals,” but for many of us vacations are all about “ease and convenience.” We are stressed enough already, we have kids with us that we want to be sure are “safe” especially if we are the grandparents. We are more afraid of what are our own kids will say never mind some on-line reviewer, if we land in “Bates Motel.”

We are going to an unknown location. We have family with us. We are thinking of our jobs and our life. We are trying to keep up with the latest post. We may not want to add the stress of uncertainty to stay or eat at a “Mom & Pop.” It might be easier to choose a recognized name. We may not be crazy about the experience, but it is a safe choice.

If this is somewhat true what does this mean to our small communities and independent businesses?

Will all the planning in the world and government loan money really help if independent businesses are not always our first choice?

Is it time to consider something more, perhaps something that will not take a large amount of money?

Something that is also an Adirondack marketing message that helps to get the word out that have quality independent businesses? Something that perhaps we can turn into a national and international recognized brand?

How about creating an Adirondack Quality Logo for independent small businesses? Stay tuned.


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