Editorial: ‘Make Orleans County Great Again’

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 January 2017 at 10:55 am
The Orleans County Courthouse is an iconic building in Albion.

The Orleans County Courthouse is an iconic building in Albion.

Donald J. Trump takes the oath of office today as 45th president of the United States of America. Trump was elected with a slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

That message resonated with many who feel economic uncertainty, fear terrorism, and worry the U.S. isn’t the powerhouse it once was.

The country has been eagerly waiting to hear Trump’s plan to achieve his goals.

Orleans Hub certainly wishes Trump well and we hope he will be a successful president, keeping Americans safe and implementing policies that foster economic growth, reaching even the poorest residents.

But the Hub likes to take a local approach on the issues and news. Sure, the President has an impact on the local affairs. But ambitious people in a small town can have a big influence on their community, regardless of whom is in the Oval Office.

We live in a struggling county. Data from the U.S. Bureau from 2010 to 2015 shows Orleans County’s population down by 1,301 residents in those five years, a 3.03 percent decline, one of the biggest declines in the state.

People vote with their feet and the county’s population has been trending downward. Chain stores have pushed out many locally owned companies.

We see neighborhoods in decline, shrinking school enrollments, shuttered buildings, and the list goes on.

I don’t expect Orleans County under a Trump Presidency will see the return of Fisher-Price, Liptons or Duffy Motts. I don’t expect Landauers, Jubilee, and many other locally owned stores to return to the business landscape.

I don’t think Trump, or any political leader, is going to a make a community great again, by themselves.

But how to make Orleans County great again?

• It will take all of our efforts. People say “there’s nothing downtown” or bemoan how few shops or manufacturers there are. But if you want more businesses in your community, try extra hard to spend money with the existing ones.

Develop a cult of community support. You see this in Medina. The community shows up big to support businesses on Main Street. When businesses survive and succeed, it encourages more to open. That cluster of locally owned businesses becomes a bigger draw, with customers from the different businesses visiting other local shops.

Medina isn’t the norm. Many small towns resemble ghost towns in their historic downtowns. Residents voted with their wallets on how they wanted their communities to look, and often that was a community dominated by chain stores and Wal-Mart.

To make Albion, Holley and Lyndonville great again, make sure you spend money with the local businesses.

• We could use more entrepreneurs – risk takers – to open businesses. If they knew the community “had their back” and would support them as loyal customers, we would see more people open in the downtowns.

The Orleans Economic Development Agency has a small business class that offers helpful pointers and low-interest loans. Money is also available through several local banks. But do we have people who will to invest their time, talent and money in businesses? Some people have taken that chance on Orleans County, but we could use more, and we need to back them when the doors open.

• We need to improve our skills and strive to be healthy so businesses have the dedicated and skilled workforce they need to succeed in such a competitive marketplace.

That may mean gaining more technical and professional skills. The employees also need to be in their right minds and need to resist drugs and other addictions.

• Last year the Holley-Murray community festival was cancelled in June. All of our organizations and community events could use more volunteers. If you want more activities in your town, consider volunteering or donating funds to make it happen.

Here are so other thoughts on how to make Orleans County great again:

• Volunteer to be a mentor with the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern.

• Coach a youth sports team or help make the team a success.

• Join a service club in your community.

• Keep your property looking good, which will encourage your neighbors to do the same.

• Be a generous tipper.

• Pay your taxes.

• Take a daily walk.

• Plant flowers, and donate to having flowers on Main Street in your community.

• Donate blood if you’re able.

• Focus on facts and “data-driven” analysis.

Orleans County gave Trump strong support in the election. We had the third highest percentage (67.9 percent) of support of the 62 counties in New York.

But in building a strong community and country, let’s not forget to look in the mirror.

It was 56 years ago when John F. Kennedy delivered his famous inaugural address.

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

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