Have you driven down East St. Germain lately? Just right over the bridge from our newly built multi-million dollar convention center (you know the one where we should have used the naming rights to pull in revenue), just look around and you will see entire vacant blocks where thriving businesses used to stand. Have you noticed Herberger's, Ciatti's, Electrolux, Ace Bar, Burger King, the comic book store (and there are way too many to mention here all over town), have all closed or are in the process of closing? Pulling down the empty buildings in some cases might seem like it helps, but I remember the music store up the block kiddy-corner from Val's. I bought my son his Alvarez Mandolin at that store, I notice it is gone and so do others. All over town we are seeing signs of economic decline.
Speaking of signs, let's talk about the ridiculous hoops new business owners moving to St. Cloud need to jump through in order to do something as simple as get a two foot sign increased to a three foot sign. In order for their new sign to be clearly read by people walking or driving by the store the owners have had to wade through a ridiculous amount of scrutiny and red tape. I sat through the city council meeting as the new business owners went through what will now be step four in this process, then watched them, current city council, create step five, a public hearing. Even if the business makes it through that step they will not have their new one foot larger sign approved, but I digress, further steps and approvals are still needed... How does this protracted process support new businesses wanting to move to St. Cloud?
Another part of our trouble is the poverty problem we have here - over 20%. This can be helped by bringing in more business. Instead of giving people hand-outs, let's start giving them a hand up, supporting them in their goals to self-improve and become prosperous. We have to work to change how we see what is going on with our poorest of neighborhoods. I have lived in these neighborhoods and know what it is like to fight to put food on the table. Again, this is a workable situation, we live in an amazing nation that has helped create opportunity for more people to lift themselves out of poverty than any other nation at any time in history. St. Cloud is a good place, with a beautiful river running through it. There are opportunities that we can create to help ALL of our citizens, not just the socially well-connected and popular.