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Tale of Two Cities: Columbiana and East Liverpool

To the editor:

Recently two separate articles were printed within days of each other about economic development in the cities of Columbiana and East Liverpool. In both cities the objective was to develop programs that would bring businesses into empty store fronts within the central business districts of these cities.

In Columbiana the city has been experiencing significant growth outside of the core of the city. A creative program being discussed would offer business entities the opportunity to occupy an empty storefront for 30 days free of charge. The objective was to provide a risk free incentive in order to give these businesses time to determine if a local market existed. If after 30 days the business owner determines there is not a local market sufficient to justify establishing a permanent location they simply close down without any further financial obligation.

If the business determines there is enough business to justify establishing a long term presence, that business executes a lease with the building owner that enables the business to remain in that location. A win-win scenario occurs where a new local business can hopefully prosper and the building owner turns a building from being a cost to a profit. Plus the overall community sees growth which helps create a positive feeling that their city is growing which creates a better economic climate which helps attract additional new businesses.

In East Liverpool the program being discussed the city would inform building owners they have a limited period of time to find businesses to occupy the building or they could be fined. The building owner could sell the building if there are buyers interested in establishing a business there. Unfortunately the business climate has been declining for years with exception of when Better Cities was hired to help the City.

East Liverpool’s approach could be described as the carrot and stick. Unfortunately the carrot in this case is unlikely to be attained given the declining business climate. Building owners rarely like to lose money so the logic that underlies the City’s decision to punish people eludes me. People respond better to incentives than they do to penalties.

A potential creation of new businesses could result in a couple years as a result of the Cracker plant being constructed in Monaca. East Liverpool’s being on the river could be a distinct advantage but only if the business climate is attractive to firms that can find river front locations elsewhere.

Personally, I have an investment in both Cities and want to see both grow and prosper. It is hard to see though how East Liverpool’s strategy will accomplish what Columbiana’s can if they are both implemented.

I likely have over simplified the issues and may be mistaken in some of the details. I believe I am correct though in the general nature of how each City is discussing plans for the future. I hope East Liverpool evaluates other approaches such as engaging Better Cities again.

Craig Newbold,

Columbiana

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