I was preaching to the choir when American Falls Mayor Marc Beitia asked me to speak during the grand opening ceremony for the downtown revitalization project Wednesday, Nov. 20. All those attending the ceremony, suffering through a cold and miserable evening to celebrate, either played a large role in the project, or held a profound conviction that American Falls was turning a corner toward prosperity. They already believed what I had to say.
At the request of some of those in attendance, I’m reprinting my comments so that a broader audience can hopefully embrace that same attitude. With added thanks for all the partners that made it happen, my comments that night are included below:
“As I left my home one week ago today to attend a meeting in Aberdeen, I drove through downtown American Falls. The sun had set and I immediately noticed something different.
New street lights were shining down Harrison Street, offering me a peaceful look at a downtown transformed. The street lights are only a small part of the downtown revitalization project, but they certainly lit up my mood on that crisp fall evening.
I didn’t know, until reading Mayor Marc Beitia’s column, that the downtown revitalization project had been in the works for eight years. Way back then, the city knew major infrastructure changes were needed to upgrade the water and sewer lines. Without new, larger water and sewer lines the business district would be limited in expansion. And the city knew they would soon be patching here, and patching there, as the ancient lines failed.
So rather than a patchwork approach, the city fathers decided to look at other alternatives and search for funding to limit the impact on the city’s taxpayers. And while they were at it, they thought, since roads and sidewalks would need to be torn apart, why not take the opportunity to give the downtown a little sparkle, a little luster.
But, as Marc said in his column, these types of things do not happen just because a small group wants them to. They happen because a much larger group comes to share the same vision and recognizes the value in working toward and attaining the same goals. Downtown businesses and the people who support them have endured discomfort and inconvenience during the construction process. It was, however, an inconvenience that was accepted with the knowledge that all good things come with a certain amount of sacrifice.
American Falls has not been immune from the economic downturn experienced nationwide. Nor has it been immune from the draw of big box stores just 20 minutes away.
That’s why groups like the Greater American Falls Area Chamber of Commerce, the Great Rift Business Development Organization and the Power County Development Authority continue to help existing businesses thrive and encourage other businesses to consider locating here. All of those efforts, however, can’t lift a city on their own. It’s up to us, as business owners and residents who are proud of their community, to take that next step.
The city has done its part. They have provided the business district with the infrastructure to grow. They have provided us with a new, improved look to our downtown.
The economic development groups continue to work hard. And I personally thank them all for their efforts.
But just having a more attractive business district doesn’t complete the job. It doesn’t guarantee existing businesses more customers. It doesn’t guarantee more businesses will locate here.
Now it’s up to the business owners, and the residents of Power County, to do their part.
Business owners must do their best to provide what their customers want. We may not always be able to offer the lowest prices, but we can try. And we can certainly offer the best service and customer satisfaction. Our customers are priceless and we want to keep them home.
Residents of Power County must do their part as well. We are one big family and we should support that family. Support your local businesses. You might save $5 by spending $3.50 for a gallon of gas to shop an out of town merchant. But that’s $5 that leaves Power County and will never return. Each dollar spent locally turns over multiple times in the local economy, helping businesses prosper and in turn maintaining a broader tax base for all of us.
Don’t take our local businesses for granted. Don’t think they will always be there if you really need them. They need our support.
The city has planted the seed with this downtown revitalization project. It is up to the rest of us to help that seed blossom.”