Letter to the Editor

Businesses: We hear you

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Dear Editor,

In regard to the recent letters to the editor I want to reassure businesses that we hear and respect your concerns about changes to downtown. This is not a process that we have entered into lightly. Weíve examined the issues we face (no foot traffic, vehicle speed, pedestrian safety, high retail business turnover, no aesthetic appeal, and deteriorating infrastructure). We hired a planning firm experienced with these types of projects. Weíve researched information on downtown that had been neglected for decades. Weíve studied the way our infrastructure was built in the 1960s and hasnít been fundamentally upgraded since. We reached out to professionals across the country, including Roger Brooks, to help address our biggest challenges in the downtown core. Weíve built relationships with ITD that had been absent for years. Weíve taken a very proactive approach to downtown and understanding how it does and doesnít work, and we continue to do so.

To be clear, we arenít addressing issues downtown to hurt our local businesses. Quite the contrary. Rather than people going to one business, spending 15 minutes and leaving, we want them to stay and explore. Where you see your doors closing, I see more people walking by, seeing your shops and spending their money here rather than in Boise or online. Weíre happy that we currently have a low vacancy rate and that businesses are doing well. That hasnít always been the case. In harder economic times, it was nearly a ghost town. Our goal is to provide more stability to weather the bad even as we enjoy the good. Of course we want new business in town. Our citizens constantly demand more options for shopping and dining. Do we want them at the expense of businesses that we currently have? We do not. But, itís irresponsible to not look towards the future.

There is a misconception that Mountain Home is a retirement community. Our demographics prove otherwise. The median age of our population is 32.5 years old. Thatís far from a retirement community. Demographic profiles on that segment of the population determine they want sidewalk dining, a walkable, bike-able community and a sense of place. While itís true many military families retire here, those retirees are in their late thirties or early 40s; far younger than the average retiree of 60-65 years old. In fact, approximately 1/3 of our population is between the ages of 20-44. That doesnít mean we donít want to also accommodate the older segments of our population and for them to enjoy downtown as well. But it changes the perspective, donít you think?

We know that change is difficult and are working diligently to adjust where able to accommodate suggestions and still make meaningful change. We are also working on additional ways to keep you informed about the project, itís progress and will update you soon. We hope youíll stay tuned to official channels of communication, or feel free to reach out to our office directly, for factual information in the meantime

Courtney Lewis,

Executive Director of

Economic Development for

City of Mountain Home

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