Day 123, Living life on my terms.
On the bright side, the colorfully decorated Christmas trees lining the courthouse square and some bright displays in a couple of storefronts sent a welcoming message. There were plenty of empty parking spaces. The Victorian architecture of the downtown business district was striking. Overall, the town did seem welcoming.
But there was no denying a deepening problem that appears to reaching the crisis stage – and it’s not restricted to Coudersport. All you have to do is talk to others in similar areas; small towns in America are in big trouble.
What can we do to turn it around? If you ask 10 people, you would probably get 10 or more different responses. But where does it go from there?
I know there has been a lot of chatter about this over the past few years. It was nice to see some of the empty storefronts staged with examples of what a business might look like if an investor would be interested in taking a chance. That was an excellent idea and it was worth a try. I’m just not so sure it will work without much more work and collaboration.
As I’ve written before, we can all help in our own small way by patronizing our local family-owned businesses whenever possible. When they thrive, their employees thrive and then the business is able to help other area groups. That is something to think about when you go to the local business seeking donations.
This idea of reinvigorating our tourist promotion with a new region made up of Potter and Tioga counties combined seems to have some potential. They’re discussing getting the state parks and other outdoor attractions tied into it and developing a new image as an area for family-based tourism with a heavy emphasis on what nature has to offer. The eventual redevelopment of Denton Hill making it a four season tourist attraction will potentially have a major impact on our local economy and survival.
These plans have worked well for decades in Vermont and Virginia. Considering that we are truly the Pennsylvania Wilds and located right into the middle of the donut, less than a day’s drive from population centers with millions of people, there is some opportunity there if we market ourselves effectively.
Canada and Vermont are famous for their maple syrup. Those who understand the industry will tell you that Potter County’s maple products are every bit as tasty and usually less expensive.
Farm tourism is starting to catch on, too, from corn mazes in the fall to “weekends at the farm” for families to experience that kind of lifestyle.
Another industry that could be developed locally is wood products. Raw materials are all around us.
If you look beyond the empty storefronts, we have so much going for us. Clean air and water, low crime rates, an excellent hospital, lots of activities for younger children (but we sure could use more for our teens). Perhaps the greatest asset of them all is the population of friendly, caring people who have chosen to live in Potter County because they want to. That loyalty can be infectious.
I’m sure every one of you knows people who emerged from high school and could not wait to get out of town. But have you noticed that, one by one, many of them have either found a way to return home or they are wishing that they could if they had a chance to make the economics work?
I know there are rays of hope out there and they’re not found in government programs or window dressing. They’re found by good people coming together, sharing their ideas and making a commitment to work on realistic plans with measurable stages to be accomplished. Because a new year is upon us, maybe we could all resolve to take our heads out of the sand and start addressing this crisis head-on.
Today I am dedicating my progress to all the residents of Potter County. Together we can, and we will, make a difference and save our community.