The recent article in the Ranger concerning the decay of Glendive’s downtown area certainly gave this reader pause for thought. I have lived here since I was 6 years old and I have certainly seen the ups and downs in the business community. I remember a time in the seventies when farm auction signs plastered windows down town. I remember watching national companies pull out of Glendive because we didn’t meet the quota the business had to have to make a store viable; or national mergers caused by down-sizing affected those of us on the lower end of the business food chain to experience closed doors. Everyone loves the food chains and years ago we had Hardy’s, A&W, Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, Taco John’s, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and Country Kitchen, but one by one they slipped away for one reason or another and it wasn’t because local people didn’t patronize them. We became victims of a bottom line decision that was far removed from our community.
We have to be aware of the newest trends in world business that affect us and that includes people who do their shopping in larger markets, at shopping malls with their anchor stores; others who shop on-line at QVC or Amazon.com for example. There is a whole new way of buying that does not include the small town merchant. They have to offer a specialized service, one that isn’t easy to find on the internet or can save me having to drive eighty to one hundred miles to get what I need.
I really don’t think there are any easy answers, but it does take a “can-do” attitude among the people who live here and the daring men and women who open businesses and keep them running. No one wants to take a chance, so these folks who start businesses really need our thanks. I am also interested and pleased at all the women I see operating successful small businesses in town. But people can’t keep working forever and business owners like everyone else want to retire or they die and for some reason no one is there to pick up the baton and continue the race. Because once again the attitude is “we can’t do it”. “It is a dying community.”
Somehow there have to be perks for people with a solid business plan who want to make the move into business in a small town. Like anything else, money is always the key, but there also has to be shared sweat equity from the store owner, and also from the city who wants to make it happen. There is a passage from the New Testament book of James where the author tells about people who see the poor and tell them ‘to eat and be filled’. James says how they going to do that when they have nothing. This is the plight of business owners. They can’t make it on their own. They need help from city supported grants, a business-friendly atmosphere in local government, cooperation of fellow business men and women and most of all the purchasing power of the local community.
Like every other small town in America, the future is in our hands. We can’t sit around and wait for the oil to come back or some other business boom to fall from heaven. We all have to make our own future. Local government, promotional groups, and the Chamber of Commerce need people to be interested and to step forward to help rebuild a community of which we are justly proud.