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… but uniqueness is ours

My Opinion
Jo Ann Spieth-Saylor, Editor

Last week, I gave you five of the 13 ways people can bring death to their communities, as outlined by Doug Griffiths and Kelly Clemmer, co-authors of ’13 Ways to Kill Your Community.’
Today, I’m going to share with you the remaining eight ways. While Corydon is the hub of Harrison County, this can apply to any one of our towns in the county or to the county as a whole.
The 13 ways come in no particular order. And a community can die as a result of one or more of the ways.
One is to not attract business.
If you lived here pre-Walmart, you’ll recall that most of the Corydon businesses were downtown. Then, still before Walmart came to town, the area now known as Old Capital Plaza was developed; that began the initial surge of shops disappearing from around the square and had people scrambling to find a way to bring shoppers to those businesses that remained downtown.
The book’s authors say those who have operated a business in the community know the challenges as well as what types of businesses/services are missing or are poorly developed.
Also, community leaders can learn from residents what they’d like to see added to the community. An easy list would be one that includes what residents go outside of the community to shop for, another of the 13 ways to kill a community.
There’s nothing wrong with local competition. In fact, the authors contend that the absence of competition means there’s no incentive for making improvements in the areas of price, quality, selection and service.
The Chamber of Commerce of Harrison County has told us for years the impact dollars spent locally has. According to the book’s authors, ‘Every dollar spent will touch six more hands within the community before it leaves. Every dollar spent outside your community, however, is gone for good.’
Shop owners must take some responsibility to be successful. You can’t just throw some items in a store and expect to have customers. Product selection is important, as is customer service.
An area where Corydon has improved in recent months is to not paint. We know that just painting a room in our home can give us a boost, and such is true for sprucing up the outside of buildings. Umuganda Corydon, a group of volunteers that meets the last Saturday of each month from 9 a.m. to noon to tackle a beautification project in downtown Corydon, has helped improve the first impression of visitors in many areas. Also, Main Street Corydon awarded several beautification grants to some businesses this year for work in preparation of next year’s bicentennial of Indiana.
A beautification program alone won’t ensure a community’s success, but it can create curb appeal for visitors.
One of the 13 ways that sounded like Harrison County was to live in the past. Since the removal of the split-rail fence around the Corydon town square and the most recent work to the state property there, many Live Wire callers have voiced their displeasure and requested the property be returned to its original state. However, research has shown that what some callers believe is the ‘original’ look is only what they have known.
So, the attitude of residents is more successful at helping a community thrive. The authors contend you have to ‘work on solutions for the future, and that only happens when you let go of mistakes, and the glory of the past.’
That goes along with two other points: don’t cooperate and reject everything new.
Someone recently called Live Wire complaining there were few, if any, downtown Corydon residents involved in revitalizing the area. If this person lives in the immediate downtown, they would be welcome to help. But, to turn away the assistance of anyone just because they don’t reside in the town proper will accomplish nothing.
Cooperating groups, regardless of where the members live, have been able to accomplish things here to include the YMCA of Harrison County and, to be completed in 2016, a multi-use building at the Harrison County Fairgrounds. Sometimes groups can have success without the naysayers.
Another possible killer is to deceive yourself about your real needs or values.
All communities fall short of perfection and can find ways to improve, according to the authors. In turn, each community has something that gives it a competitive edge over other places.
I think most of us will agree that being Indiana’s first state capital is our main edge. However, you can’t put up a sign and ignore the upkeep or fail to be innovative in the presentation. That’s why the proposed Harrison County Discovery Center will be a boon for us. It will present our uniqueness in a whole new light.
While the 13 ways aren’t listed in any order of importance, the most powerful, says Griffiths and Clemmer, is to not take responsibility.
‘Together, with that attitude that you bear no responsibility to act, you will turn your community in the right direction towards failure as more and more give up the fight and join you in blaming someone else for all that is wrong,’ they write.
I’m thankful I live in a community where there are enough caring people who will do all they can to make sure Harrison County thrives. I’ll be right there with them, doing what I can to help.
Where will you be? Knowingly or unsuspectingly working to kill what we have or finding ways to help breathe new life into our community?