OPINION: Decline of city’s Corn Palace related to downtown demiseMitchell Main Street had its annual meeting recently. Several comments were made that warrant discussion.
By: Scott Houwman, Mitchell
Mitchell Main Street had its annual meeting recently. Several comments were made that warrant discussion.
Doug Dailey presented some facts and requested feedback from the downtown folks on the proposed Corn Palace project. I found it ironic that the presentation prior to Mr. Dailey’s was for the Carnegie Resource Center. The story discussed how the keepers of our fair city’s history have taken a “city liability” and raised over $200,000 to repair the neglected property now fondly known as the Carnegie Resource Center. Those volunteers that selflessly volunteered their time, talents and money to give renewed life to one of the city’s greatest treasures are examples of the type of leadership and dedication we need to move this city forward.
Molly Goldsmith, the executive director for MMS&B, had an interesting tidbit of history herself. The original Corn Palace cost $10,000. In today’s dollars, that equates to $25 million. Why would they do that? The answer is tourism. The idea was to give travelers a reason to stop and thereby spend money. That is a lesson we seem to have lost in the discussion. The goal is to make local business owners prosper. In turn, it means better schools, parks, streets, hospitals, police force, fire protection and lower taxes for citizens.
Buildings on Main Street have been neglected for years and need some attention to restore their former glory. That takes profit. The decline of our primary tourist attraction is directly related to our downtown’s demise. Profit means an overall better quality of life for all. Furthermore, with economic stability, business owners are able to hire more employees, pay more to them with better benefits, charge less and have the economic vitality to be able to afford a broader and better tax base.
Mitchell is well positioned to really fly. Our rural friends have proven the power of agriculture as they have played a major role in us getting through a debilitating recession. Without the economic power of the family farmer and the agricultural industry’s efforts, we could be in serious trouble. Equipment sales, auto sales, and their support of local businesses is why we are in a better spot than most. The Corn Palace thanks them for that.
Imagine if we could now get the tourist machine working. Now is the time to do as our founders did, and invest in that relationship. Invest in those businesses that had the courage and foresight to get us this far. The Corn Palace is who we are, have been and is our identity for the future. Please get involved and get behind a solution that will give our kids a reason to bring their time, talents and children home. Give today’s graduates a reason to invest in small businesses of their own, renovate a downtown building of their own or at least get a decent job to raise their family.
Is the current proposal one we can all support? That is up to you. If it needs tweaking, help tweak it. There will be an opportunity to have your voice heard before the council decides on a course of action or there is a vote.
If this amount of money is going to be spent, let it be an investment that will bring tourism dollars to our city and at a minimum, help pay for a return on that investment.
In the meantime, please support your local, privately owned businesses. Every dollar spent in our local communities adds value to our way of life. Every business that is here needs to be supported and cherished as someone’s livelihood to feed their families and those whose jobs depend on the taxes that business raises to pay our teachers, police officers, firefighters, and city and county workers. You want a raise? Shop local and shop often.
Scott Houwman is a local businessman and former Mitchell City Council member.