Uneasy ride for retail in area

Newsmaker of the month: Concerns along shopping drive

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There has been quite a shake-up in the last eight months along a bustling Vineyard and Millard Fillmore Drive.

It all started last spring with the announcement that JCPenney would be leaving the D&F Plaza in July. All those familiar with the store knew it was turning a profit, but decisions at a higher level led to the exit.

Right before Christmas came the news Peebles would be closing. The store, which opened in 2007, was one of six to be shuttered across the nation.

More recently, the impending closing of Petmor and the bankruptcy filing by Tops have created additional concerns for our market. While some of it is out of our control, there are other aspects we have allowed to create the situation of fleeing businesses.

We have allowed major employers to leave, specifically ConAgra, by legally challenging its tax assessment and treating it like a cash cow when it came to water and sewer rates. We have continued to have one of the highest tax rates in the nation, which is something we have known about for decades and approve on a regular basis by voting yes to school budgets.

This, in part, has led to our declining population. Consider what this county was in the 1980s. We were close to 150,000 residents. Today, we’re much closer to 129,000 — a loss of 21,000 people or about 14 percent in 30 years.

Municipally and educationally, we haven’t shrunk all that much — and that’s where the largest costs and obstacles come from in taxes, fees and layers of government when businesses look to locate here. We still have too many elected officials, Planning Boards, Village Boards and Town Boards.

They all seem to want to find answers on how to grow business. But they never want to blame themselves for the mess we have put ourselves in.

Our small governments, many with less than 5,000 residents, have not saved us. But they have hindered those who have attempted to do business — and some who have given up.

TO COMMENT ON THE NEWSMAKER OF THE MONTH, send an e-mail to editorial@observertoday.com

or to suggest a Newsmaker of the month, contact us at 366-3000, ext. 401.

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