More stores neededPublished 6:45am Wednesday, December 5, 2012
Ask anyone who is familiar with what it takes to keep the wheels of city government running and they’ll tell you it’s the tax dollars that come from retail sales. Nowhere is that fact more evident than in Hartselle where over 50 percent of the city’s revenue comes from sales and use tax collections.
This puts Hartselle at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to competing for shoppers with the big malls in nearby cities. The disparity was never more apparent than on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) when shoppers flocked to the big stores in the wee hours of the morning to snap up advertised specials. Meanwhile, most Hartselle stores operated on their usual schedules and had to rely on loyal customers to give their businesses a holiday boost.
Fortunately, we have been able to get through a difficult recession without laying off employees or cutting back on public services, while maintaining a modest surplus. This is a credit to the prudent management of the city’s revenue and the resolve of many residents to trade at home first.
However, we have the potential to do better and should be putting all of our resources to work to stimulate business growth and create a stronger economy.
As a first step, we need to revisit the 2011-2016 Strategic Action Plan and focus efforts on bringing in market gap businesses to fill the growing number of vacant commercial buildings in our Central Business District. A good first step would be to conduct a survey of vacant properties and maintain a current listing for the benefit of prospective business owners. Such a task would require a coordinated effort of the city’s Department of Development, Chamber of Commerce and commercial property owners.
Now that the Morgan Business Park is open for business, we need to rally behind the efforts of the Morgan County Economic Development Association to bring in new industry and grow jobs. At the same time, city and county leaders need to address the needs of the Hartselle-Morgan County Industrial Park. The entire park is in dire need of a clean-up, fix-up project and vacant properties are begging for tenants and developers.
With a New Year approaching, this is a good time to take bold steps to ensure the economic well being of our community in the future.