Business group challenging residents to step up
By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist
The Helena Business Association has increased its visibility within the community this election year.
“Helena Business Association is a family of local businesses and more,” said Blane McPeake, manager at Helena Hometown Pharmacy and newly appointed HBA board member. “It is also a networking resource.”
HBA sponsored the mayoral candidates at La Reunion to speak with and address the concerns of local business owners. The recent “Meet the Candidate” forum made it possible for Helena residents to “have an open dialogue” with all the candidates on the ballot in the Aug. 28 election. It was well attended and the public was also made aware of local businesses that make up the HBA.
“The problems facing Helena are multifaceted,” HBA president David Schlueter said. “Helena has one of the highest per capita incomes in Shelby County, but its residents don’t necessarily support local business, except perhaps Publix.”
While remaining content under the umbrella of “bedroom community,” we mentally limit our expectations as to what more the city might become.
New businesses that add to the present tax base would be a start, but we must first create a vision and lay the groundwork to attract new business.
Schlueter makes the analogy that Helena has become like comfort food to its residents.
“We love driving in and seeing the waterfall; we take our visitors down to Buck Creek, maybe walk them through Old Town where they exclaim over its quaint façade. But then we take them out to eat at an upscale Birmingham restaurant.”
As HBA president, Schlueter was instrumental in bringing the second annual Blues & BBQ festival to Helena’s amphitheater this October.
He is working to create an early spring 2013 Tour de Helena bicycle racecourse that would attract avid bikers with the challenging hills of Dearing Downs racing to a finish line in Old Town.
What would it take to make Helena blossom in the best way? Schlueter suggests that our town has too many armchair quarterbacks — willing to criticize at every turn but not enough active, involved residents willing to work together.
If you are ready to be a part of taking Helena forward, find a way to volunteer your efforts.
Laura Brookhart can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.