New vision for Columbiana needed

Published 2:52 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Dear Editor,

The city of Columbiana has been home to a long time invested family owned business community. It now has several second and third generation owners. There are two businesses which have continually operated for over 100 years, and another three that have operated on 50 years.

There are approximately 25 businesses which have continually operated for over 25 years.

I do not think there is another town in Shelby County that can equal this. They all appreciate being part of the community and strive to provide the town and area residents with needed goods and services. They work hard each day to earn the respect of their customers.

An article in the Shelby County Reporter (“City, chamber work to recruit businesses”) quoted the mayor and two councilmen concerning the current conditions in the city. It is sad there is such a gap in understanding by these elected officials of the current business climate in the city.

Not one business owner that pays their own rent, utilities, phone, insurance and license fees views their work as a “hobby” that can be walked away from during economic downturns. They have substantial sums invested in buildings, inventory and fixtures, not to mention providing hundreds of jobs.

The sad truth is that there are over 45 vacant commercial spaces in the city.

The residents of Columbiana live here because of the small town culture. Everyone should try to protect that. But if something does not grow, it decays. Our city officials have refused to allow the city to grow.

The only residential growth in the last 10 years is more rent-subsidized apartments and a jail. Not a lot of discretionary income here.

Unfortunately, in Columbiana we have been stagnant for over 10 years, way before the current recession. Columbiana has seen over 80 businesses close since 2000, not including home businesses.

Of the start up businesses since 2000, only three that collect sales tax have lasted more than five years.

Despite this environment, the family business owners have continued to reinvest in their businesses and make sure they supported youth and civic activities. But there is a limit.

With the current attitude in city hall toward understanding and supporting a health business environment, we all can expect to see more empty buildings and more businesses closing or moving to more productive areas. It is time to stop accepting worn out excuses, and we must change the attitude and develop a vision for a successful Columbiana.

Wayne Raia

Owner, Pa Paws Restaurant