EAST LIVERPOOL - As people went about their business on the first day of 2013 in East Liverpool yesterday, progress for the city seemed to be a common concern when asked about their hopes for the new year.
Joe Kerr of Steubenville, an AEP Ohio retiree, said he was taking time to visit his sons and lend assistance to their respective businesses. He was shoveling snow and breaking up ice on Fifth Street in front of PC Doctors, which is owned by his son, former city councilman Brian Kerr. His other son, Kevin Kerr, runs Williams Graphic Design, located next door.
With both sons involved in business ventures downtown, Kerr said he hopes to see a more business-friendly attitude from the city administration in the new year. He cited lackluster snow removal, which left piles of snow along curbs for days after last week's snowfall, as the symptom of a larger problem in how the city is managed. "From what I see of it personally, there's a lot of room for improvement," he said.
Kerr believes East Liverpool is too enthusiastic to punish current business owners for infractions and not enthusiastic enough in attracting new ones to town. "I mean, look at this place," he said. "They're not doing anything to bring business in. That's got to change."
One new business that made downtown East Liverpool its home last year is One Stop Tanning on Walnut Street. In fact, owner April Galloway says she'll be celebrating its one-year anniversary on Feb. 22. She is also preparing to hire on her friend Mary Wymer to co-manage the establishment with her.
Galloway believes that too many local residents work in Youngstown, Pittsburgh or other outside communities, contributing to a brain-drain that inevitably draws people away from East Liverpool. "Let's build our own community," Galloway said with emphasis. Towards that end, she says she has been talking with other downtown business owners about how to make it happen.
Galloway admits that downtown revitalization will be a difficult path, but says that it is important enough to make the effort. "I think the most important thing is for small businesses to keep going, keep trying," she said.
The need for businesses and the jobs they provide was also on the mind of Jerry Fisher, who was on the front porch of his Sophia Street home talking with his neighbor, David White. Although both men are retired, there was a sense of worry for the young people who are having trouble finding their first jobs. "There's too many kids out there who have nothing to do," Fisher said.
White says he hopes more money will be spent rebuilding the national infrastructure rather than on military engagements overseas. "The thing I can't figure out is, we go over and blow hell out of Iraq, and we spend billions of dollars rebuilding them," he said. "They've done that with every war we've been in. We've got people right here in the United States living in poverty."
Rather than a New Year's resolution, Fisher shared his wish for humanity in 2013. "I just want everyone to have peace and be safe," he said. He believes that a return to Christian values and for people to have greater respect for one another would aid greatly in that outcome.
According to Fisher, the most fundamental aspect in changing the world is well within reach. "We woke up, we're alive," he said.