|Wed, Apr 16, 2014 12:14 PM
February 19, 2014 | 11:50 AM
In the past week, I've talked with a former Corydon business owner and one who is looking to open a service-provider business in the downtown area. Both wondered what is happening with what might initially seem like an abandonment of the business district.
Judy O'Bannon wrote in her Community Conversations column last week about what Harrison County was like when she first moved here as a young bride. She recalled the construction of better highways and the opening of a "dollar" store and a Dog 'n Suds.
Fast forward to the late 1970s when I moved here, also as a new bride. There still wasn't much outside of the downtown in Corydon, and the other towns still had mom-and-pop stores, perhaps a gas station and maybe some other small businesses.
I was used to traveling about 10 miles from my childhood home to do grocery shopping and maybe 20 to 25 miles to shop for other items, such as clothes and shoes. So, the limited offerings in Harrison County was not upsetting. I'd just get in the car and drive on that recently opened interstate to Floyd County or, as was most often the case, across the Ohio River into Louisville.
There were few apartments, making it difficult for newcomers to start a life here.
And if you wanted to eat out, well, your choices were slim to none. For a brief time in my early days here, you couldn't get carry-out pizza.
All that changed in the '80s. Now, Walmart, whose initial arrival had an adverse impact on many locally owned stores, is in its second facility after outgrowing its first one; other chain stores have opened shop nearby; and Exit 105 of Interstate 64 offers numerous fast-food and sit-down eateries for both locals and those passing through.
One of my first assignments after I started working here at the newspaper in 1991 was about Palmyra and how it was trying to revitalize its heart at the four-way intersection.
Since that time, Elizabeth, Lanesville and Milltown have shown signs of progress by revamping their main streets. Elizabeth and Lanesville have added branches of the Harrison County Public Library. Laconia and Elizabeth have converted their old school buildings into community centers, and Laconia is working on a 20-year comprehensive plan.
A recent article in Agricultures, a magazine of Purdue University's Dept. of Agricultural Communication, said that "rural areas have resources and value to offer; they may just need to be packaged differently today."
Jason Henderson, author of the article, contends that risks need to be taken by leaders in rural areas in order for their communities to prosper.
"There are many opportunities for those in non-urban areas ... " he said. "The challenge is to help folks find the unique opportunities that can benefit their region while evolving to adapt to new technology and demographic changes."
The series, titled "Giving New Life to Rural Indiana," can be found online at https://ag.purdue.edu/agricultures/Pages/Spring2014/Features/RuralIndiana-04.aspx.
As was shared with the two people I mentioned earlier, change tends to take place in cycles. The nation is on the rebound from a poor economy. Some businesses did not survive; other proprietors opted to not wait out the recovery period.
Those empty storefronts will see new owners give it a go. Some will be successful; others will move on after an undetermined amount of time.
Other areas in the county are just ready for an explosion of growth (think Exit 116 of I-64 at Lanesville where Areva pharmaceutical company is set to open a warehouse next month and the shovel-ready lots behind Walmart).
It's incredible to think about how the county has changed since I moved here in 1978. I still say it's the best place of all to live. And, I look forward to seeing what the future will bring for us.
I enjoy the history we have to offer, our parks departments, the businesses here and the services provided. I hope that I'm able to call Harrison County home for many years to come. That doesn't mean I'm willing to see it stop evolving.
How would you like to see Harrison County change in the next 10 years? Judy and I are still accepting your responses. Remember, there is no wrong or right answer. You can e-mail those to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.