Richmond Center City Certified Tech Park Funding

On down Main Street(Sometimes I wake with a start in the night and think I can hear Palladium-Item Viewpoints Editor Dale McConnaughay's voice chanting in the distance, "you must take a stand, you must enter the fray!"   It's probably because almost every editorial the newspaper has published in the last two months about the income or expenses of City government have included a not-so-subtle encouragement for current candidates for office to make that particular issue a part of our political campaigns.  Today, I'll bite.)

The Center City Development Corporation has asked that $300,000 of the $5 million in funds available through Richmond's Certified Technology Park account be used to support renewed operations of the organization and its Uptown Innovation Center facility.  The Palladium-Item covered the request today in a news article and related editorial, the latter of which painted the request as just another ask for taxpayer funded handouts to support private business efforts and essentially encourages a "no" vote by the Redevelopment Commission, the entity that approves the funding request.

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Why can't those downtown merchants get it right?

There's an interesting and sad article in today's Palladium-Item, Main Street struggles for survival.  Articles like it are being written about struggling downtown areas across the country, so of course it's nothing new in "this economy," but because it's about the downtown in my community, I take special notice.

The article contains some interviews with downtown business owners, some perspective on the history of the Main Street organization there, and some talk of renewed activity from merchants and business owners (myself among them) in helping make the area thrive.  But there's something missing from the picture the article paints.

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Walking to Work

Main Street West of 8th - 1960For over a year now, I've lived less than a mile away from my company's office in downtown Richmond, Indiana.  And for the first time in my life, on most days I get to and from the office by walking instead of driving.  It's been a really enjoyable shift, and one that I hope I never take for granted, given how much of the rest of the country commutes to work every day.

Some observations on walking to work:

  1. Since walking has become my usual mode of commuting, I've found myself noticing even more what complex and sometimes onerous machines automobiles can be.  There a feeling of lightness I have in walking out the door and propelling myself down the street, feeling my muscles working and pace changing, saying hi to people and noticing changes in their moods and dispositions from day to day, just being out in the open air of the world.  This is much different from the protocols for entering, activating and safely operating my internal combustion go-go machine from one place to another; it's just a much heavier and more isolating experience, and while it still has its place, I'm quite glad to partake in it less often. Continue reading Walking to Work

Clear Creek Food Cooperative on Main Street

Our shelves are full again!I've been walking to and from work via the Main Street business district here in Richmond, Indiana, and as I take in with fresh eyes the businesses and product/service offerings located there, I can't help but argue a bit with the folks who would say it's a struggling area.  We have several great local restaurants, a wide variety of local banks, a place devoted entirely to the art of knitting and crocheting, a cloud computing specialist, a local sporting goods store, massage therapists and acupuncturists, software consultants and website developers, an amazing toy store, bakeries and candy shops, several local jewelers, coffee shops...yeah, the list keeps going on.  What a neat place to live and work!

One of the new additions that I'm most proud of right now is the Clear Creek Food Cooperative, located at 710 East Main Street, right below my company's new headquarters. The store is open to the public as of this past weekend, and the inventory is still growing as we stock local foods, organic produce, crafts and gifts made by local artisans, and healthy bulk foods, snacks, spices and more. Continue reading Clear Creek Food Cooperative on Main Street

Too many community builders in one town?

GazeboOne of the recurring themes in my writing in speaking about how to make our communities more self-reliant is that we can't necessarily depend on entities and organizations that aren't locally rooted to address the issues that are of local concern. The natural corollary to this is that, in addition to individual citizens taking action, we should be able to look to locally rooted organizations to be moving the community forward, helping us make it the place we want it to be.

But one only has to look at the long list of community building organizations and entities in Richmond - and the overlap, duplication, and even competition that some of them represent for each other - to wonder if maybe this isn't an area where we're actually holding ourselves back instead of moving ourselves forward.

Consider, in no particular order: Continue reading Too many community builders in one town?

Big box stores eating big box stores

The forthcoming closing of Richmond's Target store, reported in the Palladium-Item on November 6th, is certainly a troubling development for the local economy. Jobs will be lost, the convenient shopping will need to be found elsewhere, and yet another "big box" piece of real estate will need to be filled.
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Business incubation contributes to long-term health of community

This piece was written for submission to the Palladium-Item during my time on the board of Main Street Richmond-Wayne County. It never made its way to the paper, but I thought I'd post it here since it's still relevant.

It still strikes me how little we knew about everything that goes into running a business when we founded the technology company I work for, Summersault, in 1997. We were very confident about the services we wanted to provide and very focused on the clients with whom we wanted to work, but had plenty to learn about accounting, legal matters, hiring employees, and all of the other necessary but complex areas of knowledge one must dive into when doing business.
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