I have lived in Bowling Green for 35 years, both in the city and county. I am not a politician, but I used to love living here. I am running for office because I think the City Commission has lost its way.
When I first moved here, the main shopping center was located where South Campus is now. I would buy groceries and have to wait in line while everyone in front of me had a conversation with the check out person. And, at least half of the time the people knew each other. When I was young, I was annoyed by this.
When my Dad and I would go places, we would be blocked in the road by two cars talking with each other. We would wait until they were through. I would say to myself “why don’t they just call each other?”
Going to the mall meant driving by vacant fields and most people were home by 9 p.m. The Mall was the place to catch up with friends.
Many WKU Alumni say they came from elsewhere to attend college, but chose to stay because it became home.
I understand these days are gone. I miss the pace. I miss having a conversation with every person I meet. I miss seeing green space in the city. I miss the local businesses. Do you remember the Iron Skillet, The Parakeet, Royal Barn Florist, Pushins, The Holidome, House of Wan, The Brass A? And there are many more. It was nice going into a business, seeing local people running their small business, and having a chat.
Now, there is more focus on developing industry, developing apartments, and master plans. These lack the heart of local business. When times get tough, big business leaves; small business owners innovate.
Gander Mountain-left; Camping World (local) took over the space.
Fruit of the Loom- layoffs every few years
I understand some of this is the result of the loss of brick and mortar sales. However we also live in the information age, yet are pursuing manufacturing. As far as I know, we are not preparing for the future in a responsible way. We know manufacturing jobs are being replaced by automation. Are we training our young to work in technology? We have STEM Programs, but does this continue through to adulthood and on to the work force? I know people who are WKU graduates laid off from WKU, Fruit of the Loom, etc. and the only jobs these white collar trained people can find is on a factory line. I am not opposed to blue collar work. But, if a person trained for white collar employment, then why aren’t there more white collar jobs available? WKU enrollment is down.
It has also been noted roughly 60% of the property in Bowling Green is rental/apartments and the other 39% are home owners. When the job market has a downturn, many who are more mobile will leave to find better jobs. Homeowners have roots in the community. They may be more innovative in their employment so they can stay in the community. Many couples find a “forever home” where they plan on starting and raising their family.
We all have seen how when a large company comes to a town they talk of how much they love the community. But when better incentives, cheaper labor comes along, these companies leave for better profit opportunities.
Research indicates the middle class is shrinking. I believe we have an obligation to support our local businesses and assist in developing small business. Many small businesses can support our economy in good times and bad. They will innovate, because their survival depends on it. We can grow our middle class; the backbone of society.
Here are some ideas to consider:
- Restart the Innovation Center to provide support for budding businesses
- Work more closely with the SBA (Small Business Administration) to help people make effective business plans and build success.
- Utilize local businesses for smaller City projects to invest in our local businesses.
- Implement the plan already in place in Christian County-if a person graduates from high school, two years of Community College or two years of Trade School are free, provided the student maintains an acceptable GPA.
- Coordinate with WKU and KCTCS to form a seamless transition from graduation to employment in the community.
These ideas are counter to the current City Commission, which seems to focus on industrial development only. I am not against the City Commission, but I think they need to broaden their view and focus on the individuals in the community.
According to Forbes, there is a prediction of the next recession to be in the second half of 2019. My concern is when the large factories leave, the economy will tank, the people will move, the rental properties will be vacant and we will look more like Detroit than Bowling Green. The heart of our city is the citizens and we need to help citizens grow roots in the community.
I may stand alone on this issue, but I thought there needs to be a discussion. Thank you for reading this post.