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To the editor:
For a young family in Mount Ayr, there are clear perks to living in a small town. Those who chose to put down roots are likely enticed by of the sense of community that existed in their own childhoods. Unfortunately, the changing landscape of rural Iowa, evolving consumer needs, and the decrease in local businesses are leaving areas of our community desolate.
In the last 18 months, we have seen the end of Farm & Home, the Crazy Heifer, ShopKo, and the potential closure of Community Grocers (CGI). Add in the empty brick building south of CGI, along with the vacant former ‘Mitchell Drug,’ and one of our business districts is fading fast.
There is a chain reaction when local offerings are not available. For example, if someone chooses to drive to another town for real-time pharmacy needs, they may fuel up there. While filling their tank, they may also fill their bellies at a local restaurant. They then explore the retail offerings, or make a day of it and take in a movie. In short, they spend their time and money -and make their memories- outside of Ringgold County.
Let’s get back to economic basics. I challenge us all – myself included – to re-imagine our community.
1. Dream big. What do we need to create the right, sustainable, small town infrastructure?
2. What is our ‘brand?’ What unique features can we promote -or- create? What must we do to stand out from other southwest Iowa towns?
3. How can we be stronger together? There are many instances where local groups have related but separate agendas. Let’s come together and drive towards the common goal of community sustainability.
4. Foster competition. Don’t forget – we used to be home to multiple pharmacies, doctors’ offices, parts stores and even three gas stations in recent years. Competition truly makes us all better, provides additional jobs, and ensures options from location to location. Let’s not make online shopping our only option.
5. Fewer businesses can result in higher taxes, lower student enrollment, less patient care needs… we must consider the ripple effect to everyone’s livelihood.
For those who saw the CBS Sunday Morning episode on December 8, we are unfortunately part of a rural America trend. We don’t have to be. Let’s not lose yet another business. For the current CGI stockholders, we urge you to vote against dissolving the store on December 14. There are a handful of young families who have united to reimagine CGI. They aren’t looking to create a direct competitor to Hy-Vee, but to think beyond what we have in town and evolve the CGI space to further keep our citizens local and even attract people from neighboring communities to spend their dollars here. They aren’t the original leaders of CGI, but the generation who benefitted from having a grocery competitor to keep prices down at both grocers. Let’s give the this generation a chance to help keep our town alive.
In closing, a big thanks to the businesses that continue to work hard to compete with the alluring online and out-of-town offerings, and thanks to those who continue to support local businesses, especially during the holiday season.
Let’s make sure the next generation isn’t inheriting a ghost town.