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October 27, 2010 - 12:38pm

Essay from Steve Hawley on 'big box stores' and small community-based businesses

posted by Howard B. Owens in business, steve hawley.

Some time ago, during one of our discussions on The Batavian about big box stores, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to get Assemblyman Steven Hawley's take on the issue. Hawley is somebody with deep roots in the community, a small business owner and as a legislator he is in a position to deal with issues that impact small business owners.

Steve was gracious enough to write a response to my question about his position on these issues. Below is his response.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R, I, C – Batavia): What the state legislature and local community can do to support New York’s small businesses.

In our free market economy, practiced in the United States, consumer demand is the driving force behind the success or failure of all businesses. Products and services are produced on an as-needed basis, with increased sales or transactions or product made and another job created. In truth, the way you spend your dollar has a ripple effect that can reach across your community, the state of New York, the country and sometimes across the globe. That’s the beauty of the free market – the power is in your hands.

Armed with the knowledge that the market conforms to your decisions, the question becomes how you want to spend your hard-earned money. In communities across our great state, consumers are faced with the same decision each and every day; should I take my dollar to a locally owned business or to the nearest “Big Box” location?

Surely, I recognize the minor advantages presented by global conglomerates offering generic products in bulk at deflated prices, but the consequences of abandoning your neighborhood shop in favor of a multi-national corporation go far beyond the bill at the bottom of your receipt.

For example, the money made by a business is used for, among other things, creating and maintaining positions of employment. Companies like Home Depot are world-renowned for hiring almost exclusively on a part-time basis so that they can avoid paying benefits afforded to full-time employees, such as health insurance and paid vacation.

So when you buy your groceries at a “Big Box” store, you are perpetuating their cycle of under-employment and inadequate compensation for their workers, who are also your neighbors. When you buy locally made products at your neighborhood store, your dollar is providing full-time, gainful employment for the members of your community.

The industry that may rely the most heavily on the loyalty of the local consumer is agriculture. No other profession requires the amount of dedication and hard work displayed by Western New York’s farmers.

This is why it is so vital for consumers to partake in local farmers’ markets that display the best agricultural products in the community in one convenient location. I have introduced legislation A11270 that would encourage businesses -- large and small -- to sell NY grown (goods), and produce an income-tax credit based on receipts scale. We all need to take pride in our citizens and businesses ingenuity and incredible capacity to produce high quality products.

Buying locally from small businesses provides jobs that offer adequate compensation for their employees, which feeds back into the economy on even deeper levels. If a worker has access to vacation days, they are able to travel with their family to state parks and other attractions, keeping revenue in the state that funds our schools, hospitals and community projects.

Travelers eat at local restaurants, which use their profits to employ residents of their communities, who in turn can contribute to the state’s economy in the same fashion. In a free and open market, every dollar spent embarks on a cyclical path, and the results are felt on a bafflingly large scale.

This is why it is so important that consumers pass up the allures of “Big Box” stores and stay committed to the products and services being provided by the members of their own communities; every dollar you spend has a ripple effect that will eventually circulate and positively affect you.

As an independent businessperson, I know firsthand the impact of nationwide “Big Box” companies who attempt to impact my own bottom line. I employ eight people in my business, whose jobs are jeopardized by these “Big Box” insurance companies that employ the bare minimum of local residents, if at all. All businesses like mine face a heightened, adversarial impact from national companies located outside NY. The impact requires us all to utilize differing methods of business acumen.

If the power is in the hands of the consumer, this begs the question: what role does the state legislature play in the realm of business? The main responsibility of the state legislature in this area is to create and foster opportunities.

There are multiple approaches to achieving this end and, for New York, the most pressing is creating a more welcoming business environment. Surveys consistently rank New York near the bottom for being business-friendly. As reported by the National Federation of Independent Business, 79 out of 150 (53 percent) New York State Assembly members voted against business interests a staggering 80 percent of the time.

This poor ranking is attributable to stringent regulations and oppressive taxes, which put an undue burden on businesses both large and small. The state legislature plays a key role in setting these unfortunate policies. To truly help strengthen small business and heightened employment, the state legislature must cut taxes, drastically reduce oppressive mandates and put an end to out-of-control state spending.

I have personally sponsored legislation to work with businesses instead of against them, such as my bill to extend the agricultural property tax credit to qualifying farmers, legislation to repeal the $50 registration fee for businesses to collect sales tax and legislation to repeal the 2 percent utility tax.

These actions create a more permissive environment, in which all businesses will have an environment more conducive for success. These changes would particularly help small businesses, as taxes create extra cost that they do not have the capacity to absorb, forcing them either to close their doors or relocate. With the shackles of regulations and taxes relieved, small businesses will be given an opportunity to compete, thrive and innovate in the free market.

The spread of the globalized economy has ushered Big Box stores into communities across the state, threatening the small businesses that are the backbone of our local economies. This shift in the structure of the marketplace must be answered by legislation that supports our small businesses so that they are still able to compete and offer products to consumers. In a free market, consumers have the power to make the choice of supporting local businesses -- our own neighbors.

George Richardson
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I always liked the Big N though I didn't really care for Kings, Valu or Fayes Drugs. I never realized they were big box stores back then, but I guess they were. What about Grants, Newberry's, SS Kreske, Montgomery Wards, A&P, Acme, Top's, Loblaws, and Star Market, weren't they all chains too? My mom always shopped at Marchese's Market. I think they call that part of Main Street the Motor Eighth of a Mile now. I miss the Red Barn every time the Hungry's hit. It was my first memory of smelling boiling french fry grease, it makes me nostalgic and slightly nauseous.
Howard B. Owens
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George, there have always been people who railed against chain stores. The growth of A&P was controversial in its time. But those chains didn't use predatory pricing tactics or rely on tax subsidies to fuel their growth.
Jim Burns
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The comments are great and I agree with almost all of them. Unfortunately this fact "In our free market economy, practiced in the United States, consumer demand is the driving force behind the success or failure of all businesses. " the fist line of the letter kills much of small business because people shop for most items based solely on price. The book "Cheep, the High Price of Low Discounts" does a great job of explaining all the local, national and international problems associated with buying cheap goods. http://www.amazon.com/Cheap-High-Cost-Discount-Culture/dp/B002ZNJWGS/ref... This book would be well worth your time if you are interested in the subject. Unfortunately there are no simple answers to how to rectify this situation except public awareness. Ironically I think this area would be one of the hardest to convince paying even a few pennies more is good for them in the long run, when this area is a perfect example of what happens when local business move away or are crushed by the giants. Also while I find Mr Hawley's ideas for helping small businesses, like mine, helpful they in no way are going to protect me from large corporations if and when they target my market segment. Until meaningful legislative change is made, which will mean real revenue loss for the state in the short term, the only thing that protects small business is innovation and the ability of the small business to adapt more quickly or find a niche that big business is not currently interested in.
Dave Olsen
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Big N, LOL haven't heard that mentioned in a long time. George you forgot Twin Fair in your stagger down memory lane, they were the first "big box" in this area.
Darrick Coleman
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Jim, I chuckled at the irony of you posting an amazon link to the book "Cheap" when there is a local book store right here in Batavia that advertises/supports thebatavian. It was double ironic for me as the Present Tense ad showed up right next to the amazon link that you posted. Doing a price analysis on this book you'll see that when you buy on amazon the book costs $11.37, plus a $3.99 shipping fee for a total of $15.36. The full retail price of this book is $16.00. I know for a fact that Present Tense had this book at 20% off at one point, but even at full price you'll end up saving a whopping total of $.64, and you'll have to wait a week for shipping when buying from amazon; what a great deal! Amazon has to charge NYS sales tax also, so there is no savings there either. I know, I know, free shipping if you fill your cart with an additional 14$, but by shopping locally you don't have to spend an extra 14$ to "save" 4$. Independent bookstores like Present Tense are a rarity these days, and are dying in droves. It's sad that a loss of diversity and locally owned businesses is worth only 64 cents.
Tim Howe
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Hey Dave, Not only TWIN FAIR, but later on ZAYRES was one of the greatest stores ever (regardless of whether it was an evil box store or not) I absolutely LOVED it as a kid :)
Jim Burns
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Darrick, I smirked too when I posed the link. I was wondering if any one would catch that. I bought the book in a book store in Chicago when I was traveling and it was discounted there too. Good book not sure who I lent it to. I use Amazon as a catalog and read the reviews they even have exerts from same thing with iTunes. Listen to the song then buy the CD or Vinyl. The author mentions the she expected most of her books to be sold cheap.
Dennis Jay
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My father owned a tv store in Batavia for many years, and I recall that Twin Fair started selling the same brand for less than he could buy them. He saw the writing on the wall and quickly got out of the business. But Twin Fair is no Walmart. At least its profits stayed in state to help build the local economy. To me, that's the most important thing.
Darrick Coleman
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Yeah, actually my wife is reading the book right now too. She just read one of the sections to me about Wal*mart and how they price things. For example (and this is from memory) most of their products aren't actually a good deal. Only the biggest sellers are drastically reduced in price. This gives the appearance that Wal*mart has low prices on everything when in fact they only have low prices on items with a high turnover.
Dave Olsen
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Surely, lower taxes through lower state government spending would help small local business. A good one to pick on is the corporate welfare that is given to "big box" stores from economic development agencies, which are tax dollars, then they are given breaks on electric etc, then are given property tax breaks. All so they can build a store to take away business from local folk. Politicians create problems and then campaign against them.
Frank Bartholomew
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Am I missing something, if you buy groceries at Wal-mart, exactly who are you hurting, Tops, Aldis, where else is there to buy groceries? I have said this before, when comparison shopping for grocery items, and based on the price I pay, 95 items in the cart at Wal-Mart is about $22 - $26 cheaper than the same cart at Tops. That $22-$26 puts almost a weeks worth of gas in my car. I would bet those numbers have gone up, as the last time I compared was in the spring.
Howard B. Owens
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Darrick, please ask Erica to order a copy for me. I've, of course, recommended before, "The Big Box Swindle" by Stacy Mitchell. Frank, just a reminder -- they have security cameras in Walmart, and unlike, say, a local restaurant, they are monitored constantly, watching your every move. Just saying.
Tim Howe
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Frank, just a reminder -- they have security cameras in Walmart, and unlike, say, a local restaurant, they are monitored constantly, watching your every move. Just saying. You should do comedy more often Howard :) LOL!!!!!!
kevin kretschmer
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I'm fine with shopping in any store and being watched via security cameras. However, I agree with Frank, having someone watch me eating a meal is creepy. I eat out a fair amount, from local diners to restaurants far more upscale than anything Batavia has to offer and contrary to what Mr. Mistler and others have posted here, numerous security cameras throughout dining establishments are not "just how it is these days". Of the two dozen or so places I've eaten in the past couple of weeks I've seen several that have a camera over the cash register, that's it, and I've made a point of looking.
Howard B. Owens
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Kevin, you're assuming you can see the cameras. Further, just because a restaurant has a camera doesn't mean you are being watched. Typically, everything is taped and viewed only later if some issue/problem arises. In establishments where real-time theft is the main issue, that's when you're watch real-time, such as a retail establishment with the resources to hire security to watch your every move.
Dave Olsen
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I'll bet those guys at Wal-Mart have seen things they really wish they hadn't. LOL
Frank Bartholomew
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Howard, Shopping and having dinner are miles apart, I didn't go shopping on a first date, I went out to dinner. Just saying......And I think you should do a little research on how security is handled in retail.
Howard B. Owens
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Actually, I've long heard that supermarkets are a great place to meet other singles.
John Roach
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There is an assumption that local businesses all hire full time help, Many hire part time for the same reason box store do, cost.
Howard B. Owens
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John, it's not that simple. Let's say you run a small shoe store. If you're doing well, you employ yourself and perhaps your wife full time. That's two full time jobs. And then you may have one to three more employees, and perhaps and probably one of them is FT, but even if all three are PT, you're still talking about a business that employs two FT people (you and your other family member). If a big box puts you out of business, that's two FT positions traded for part-time positions. And it's more than just those jobs, let's not forget -- your shoe store uses a local accountant, a local attorney, buys most of its supplies locally, is more likely to use a closer-to-home regional distributor, and on and on, not to mention your local business probably gives more both in your time and your money to support the local community. So the idea that "Many hire part time for the same reason box store do, cost" really is beside the point. The impact of local vs. national chain goes well beyond how many FT vs PT employees. Further, for whatever number of employees a locally owned business has, they're not just a number that adds or subtracts to the bottom line. For the big corporation, employees are just numbers to be cut when revenues drop. The small local business doesn't have that luxury for a variety of reasons. When revenues go down they almost invariably need to find a way to make it work without eliminating jobs. There are exceptions to all of this, of course, and I'm sure somebody will delight in pointing out the exceptions, but the exceptions don't change the overall fundamentals.
Frank Bartholomew
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Howard, I would love nothing more than to spend my money, and keep it local, that option does not exist in Batavia. The demise of Batavia wasn't Wal-Marts fault, it was called urban renewal, all those little guys took the money and ran.There were numerous stores and shops, their was competition, thats gone, and its not Wal-Marts fault. Main St. Batavia was lost to the wrecking ball, and done by the idiots who were in office at that time. Wal-Mart was no where in sight, we shot ourselves in the foot long before Wal-Mart took advantage of a situation ripe for the picking.
Howard B. Owens
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Frank, there are 100s of locally owned retail and restaurant businesses in Genesee County.
Tom Klotzbach
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It would seem that local businesses have unique opportunities to serve folks and differentiate themselves from other folks: 1 – They know the area. They know the tastes and trends of the area better than anyone else. They know how the community has changed. 2 – They are in a unique position o offer superior customer service. Yes I have been to Home Depot and run into walking around trying to find help. I have *never* had that problem at a local hardware store. Personalized customer service is one way that merchants can induce people to do business with them. But note that regardless of size, if merchants are rude or disagreeable to deal with, they are going to lose business – businesses don’t have a birthright to customers. 3 – Quality. Selling quality items is a consideration. Overseas companies have not cornered the market on junk. A good example is Apple products. The iPad is manufactured and assembled in China. Take a look at one. It is precision machined aluminum at very high tolerances. Local merchants do their customers a favor when they stock quality items – regardless of where they are manufactured. Lastly, I’ll mention relativity. Do folks consider Wegman’s a big box store? How about Chase-Pitkin when they were in business? Wegmans is a regional powerhouse of a grocer which has excelled at finding and exploiting market niches. Are we as hard on Wegman’s as we are on Wal-Mart? The *vast* majority of Wegman’s employees are part-time employees – not full-time. Is Wegmans somehow culpable for the decline of smaller grocers? I'm sure they are. There is room for merchants of all stripes, large and small. What matters is the value that merchants can bring to their business and their customers.
JoAnne Rock
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I think what Frank is saying, and I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong, is that when you are trying to live within your means, on an austerity budget, there are limited "local" options for purchasing household and personal necessities. Most people have no choice but to shop at the big box stores for those items. As much as I would personally love to support more local businesses; dining out, gym memberships, high-end clothing and shoes, etc. are not in my budget. I agree with Frank about the decline of Batavia being more a result of urban renewal than Walmart.
Howard B. Owens
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"I agree with Frank about the decline of Batavia being more a result of urban renewal than Walmart. " Really beside the point. We're talking about now, not the past. We all have to watch our budgets, but it is possible to do it in a manner that takes a long-term, community-spirited view, rather than short-term, me-first view.
Bea McManis
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We've plowed this field before. As a life long Batavian (except for a few years)I, and many others, gave little thought about shopping locally. It was just a way of life. Rarely did we have to travel to Buffalo, Rochester or beyond to find anything we needed. We grew up in a bustling commmunity where prices were competitive due to the large number of retail establishments that thrived here. Frank relates just a portion of the "past". The part he left out was that it was our own local merchants who destroyed our retail business community. It wasn't a corporation from Bankok or Arkansas. The same people we trusted as upstanding local business people lined their pockets with urban renewal money and then erected a monument to themselves called "the mall". I don't know if there is data that would tell us how many full time and part time jobs were lost as a result of urban renewal or how many businesses folded. The number, I know, would be astounding. Yes, you can't go back and fix what they broke. Yes, it is history. But history has a way of repeating. Trust your local business people. Maybe that trust is still one more generation away. There are still too many people who remember the trust and good will they felt for those local merchants who, in the end, felt it was their right not to redistribute the wealth among all the merchants, but to distribute it within a very tight and closed circle. Wal-Mart did not cause the decline of Batavia's business community. Wal-Mart found a door opened by the greed of a few and took advantage of the situation. Wal-Mart, warts and all, is now part of our landscape. They are like the five and dime stores we remember as kids. The merchandise is affordable for people on limited budgets. I guess they are the "me first" people of which you speak.
John Roach
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Howard, I wonder how many small, local, business buy at big box stores for supplies to save money.
Howard B. Owens
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John, you just want to go out of your way to miss the point, don't you? I don't know, and you don't either. And it's completely irrelevant. We've been over this ground and over and over -- perhaps this time I'll say it in a way in which it will sink in: We all have to do what we have to do, because at least in Genesee County, not everything can be bought on a shop-local basis. The point is, be an informed consumer. Why is that so hard to understand? What's the point of continually raising nonsense and irrelevant objections? If some don't get the message yet, including small-business owners, so be it, but that doesn't invalidate the fact-based reason to be an informed, community-minded consumer. If you don't like it, fine, shop yourself silly wherever you like, but inventing excuses is rather silly. Just admit you just don't care and be done with it.
Frank Bartholomew
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Howard, it has been, and always will be about the almighty dollar, and not just from one side of the fence. You obviously have a claim in this, your sponsers, I,m not naive enough to think your honest, unbiased opinion has anything to do with this conversation.
Frank Bartholomew
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Bea, I believe I said,"the little guys took the money and ran". It's a shorty of your story.I think the only reason you would call it a portion,would be the difference in space used on a page to say the same thing. Thats just me though, I seem to always be in a hurry.
JoAnne Rock
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Howard, where did anyone suggest being anything other than a community-minded, informed consumer? What is it that you think people don't understand? Your statement basically reiterated what I had said. What excuses are people inventing? Not dining out because it's not in your budget is not an excuse...it's a reality...to suggest otherwise is arrogant and elitist. Your comment..."Just admit you just don't care and be done with it"...is baseless and insulting. One thing life long Batavians like to do is reminisce about the good old days of Batavia. You may think it is nonsense, but it is our history. It's the direction a lot of us would like to see Batavia go. Sometimes you have to look back in order to move forward.
John Roach
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Howard, My only point was that while trying to not use the evil big box stores, the small ones have to use them to help stay around. There is an irony there I like. No argument intended.
Frank Bartholomew
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JoAnne, Well said, but I think the reality is this. Email from sponser to Howard, Hey Howard, shut these people up already, its tough enough without this. I also agree with the arrogant statement to a point, Howard has a business to protect. I'm done with this site, Only certain people can throw mud, and certain others can't throw back.I prefer sites where the owners /operators don't have such a local vested interest.I guess I'm just not community spirited, or maybe I dislike a stacked deck. This post will be deleted, that I'm sure of, or an other,unnamed 3rd world party will jump on it. So you all have yourselves a fine day, some of you, it was nice debating with you, and some of you have dentists who don't mind the smell of feces.
Howard B. Owens
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Frank, the advertising and the philosophy go hand-in-hand and I've never denied that. In fact, on at least three occasions I've turned down advertising because it didn't meet our standards. We promote local business both in our editorial policy and our advertising policy. I've always been 100 percent up front about that. I've also explained many, many, many times why that is -- strong local business communities mean strong local civic communities. This country is majorly screwed up, and until we fix our local communities the country will keep circling the drain. If you don't like it -- fine, skip the site, I don't care, but I'm not going to change a core passion of mine just to suit you. Be as cynical about it as you like, but the overwhelming factual evidence is that the big boxes harm every community they come into. Choose not to believe it if you don't like it, but that's your problem, not mine. Be cynical about it if you like and say it's just about the money for me, but I'm quite comfortable knowing that it's really about a grander vision than that. And if you don't believe or don't like it, I really don't care. And if you don't like personally how you're treated on this site, that's really in your own head and there's nothing I can do about it.
Howard B. Owens
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JoAnne, you wrote, "Your comment..."Just admit you just don't care and be done with it"...is baseless and insulting." How is it baseless (and therefore insulting)? The case has been clearly made that Big Boxes are bad for communities, but people keep coming up with baseless arguments for supporting them (which is how I took John's comment and was the ONLY comment I was responding to when I made that statement -- John now says he wasn't arguing against my position, but that's not how I took the post). You bring up the history of Batavia and suggest that I'm arguing against being nostalgic for what was lost. In respect, but I don't know any way to make this plainer: That's ridiculous. That's not even what I implied and it's just nonsense to suggest that's what I said. What I said is that what happened in the past is no excuse for shopping at non-locally owned stores. In context -- please pay attention to context -- I was arguing against Bea making an excuse of urban renewal. I wasn't denying that urban renewal was a bad thing. I wasn't saying nostalgia for what used to be is a bad thing, nor even that wanting to recreate it is a bad thing. Anybody who has been reading the site for a while should know how I feel about urban renewal. Let me again repeat something I've said many times: There are reasons we all have to shop at Walmart, etc. But when people bring up baseless excuses for shopping at Walmart, I'm going to call them on it. And if after all of the arguments have been crushed and proven to be nonsense and people keep making them, what am I supposed to do, just agree? At some point, I just have to throw up my hands and say, keep on keeping on, but you're not going to win me over with assertions that don't hold water. Frankly, I am flabbergasted and fail to understand why a "shop local first" philosophy would be controversial at all. How can any reasonable person even argue against it? It's like arguing against the proposition that we should all breathe air. Why make excuses? Why not just figure out how best to do it to suit your means and needs?
Bea McManis
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Howard wrote:, "I was arguing against Bea making an excuse of urban renewal. I wasn't denying that urban renewal was a bad thing. I wasn't saying nostalgia for what used to be is a bad thing, nor even that wanting to recreate it is a bad thing. Anybody who has been reading the site for a while should know how I feel about urban renewal.". Howard, I think we are on the same page, but just in different paragraphs. There is no other way to explain the demise of our bustling downtown other than to look at urban renewal. We both understand that urban renewal money, used in Batavia, was ill spent. I firmly believe that a big box store, like Wal-Mart would not have found this area a good place to locate if they had to compete with the downtown commercial area we once had. That said, Batavia's downtown still has not found it's new identity. What will make us unique? No doubt this is a question that plagues the BID. What I would like to see are suggestions. Do we become a mecca for upscale shops that will attract people from outlying areas? Do we transform our downtown into a quaint village of locally owned specialty shops? (my personal favorite). What exactly is the vision? My vision, for that quaint village of locally owned speciality shops, would see a green grocer back on Main St., a butcher shop, a bakery, clothes and shoe stores, yes even a five and dime. While we have many local businesses, it would be nice to have them within walking distance of each other. But that is my vision. What is your's or the vision of others on this site?
JoAnne Rock
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Howard, a "shop local first" philosophy is not controversial at all. No one, especially me, is arguing against it. Also, no one is denying that big box stores are detrimental to communities they move in to. You said it yourself...there are reasons we all (even you) have to shop at Walmart. That was my ONLY point. What I have a problem with, is that you keep saying that "people keep coming up with baseless arguments to support Walmart". It just sounds a little hypocritical. As if your reasons for supporting them are somehow more justified and everyone else's reasons are baseless and they just don't care about their local community. If you are going to call someone out for a baseless argument, then maybe you should call them out by name so it will be in proper context. As far as the nostalgia comment. I was not implying that you were arguing against being nostalgic. I was implying that perhaps from the perspective of someone that is not a life long Batavian, you might find the notion nonsensical.
Howard B. Owens
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Bea wrote, "I firmly believe that a big box store, like Wal-Mart would not have found this area a good place to locate if they had to compete with the downtown commercial area we once had." First, OK, so we're largely on the same page, but I did want to address this one point. Batavia's situation is somewhat unique -- though not entirely, because a lot of urban centers were done in by urban renewal all across the country -- but I would beg to differ that Batavia's downtown could have survived Walmart and the rest. One of the benefits of my last job was that I got to travel to lots of small towns. I visited many downtowns that literally make Batavia's current downtown look like a thriving mecca of commerce. When I spoke with the local newspaper publisher about what happened to their downtowns, the fingers always pointed in one direction, the nearest Walmart. Walmart is single-handedly responsible for destroying many a small town's downtown. They can't be blamed for Batavia, but that doesn't let them off the hook for what they've done elsewhere. And to a point, I wouldn't mind so much, because I do believe in competition and capitalism, but when I look at the $8 billion Walmart received to fuel its growth, I just have to wonder what all of those ghost town small towns would be like if their local leaders hadn't been so eager to bring Walmart to town. That's a bigger issue than just Batavia. My only concern about Batavia now is that it seems to be a town on the brink -- and perhaps it's been perpetually on the brink since urban renewal -- but it's on the brink now, for sure, and could go either way. Billie and I do love it in Batavia, we want to see it thrive. But it's not going to thrive unless it gets all of our support. It's going to take all of us pulling together to do the little things that make a community vibrant and healthy. And part of that is supporting the local businesses we do have to the best of our ability.
Bea McManis
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JoAnne Rock
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Bea, I share your vision of quaint specialty shops. But, my vision of Batavia would also highlight our wonderful agricultural resources. It would be a food mecca that would support local farmers, showcase talented culinary professionals and tantalize the tastebuds of folks near and far. I envision a bustling year-round indoor public market, with green grocers, butchers, cheese shops, ethnic food stands, ethnic bakeries, chocolatiers and candymakers. There would also be a culinary arts center with hands-on cooking classes and demonstrations for all ages. Food is always a draw. If they come for the food, they might be more inclined to stay and shop in all the quaint little specialty stores.
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Howard writes "Frank, the advertising and the philosophy go hand-in-hand and I've never denied that. In fact, on at least three occasions I've turned down advertising because it didn't meet our standards. We promote local business both in our editorial policy and our advertising policy. I've always been 100 percent up front about that." So the philosophy is loyalty to the local community first and yet one day after the article is posted that Marc Coppola(who is not from Genesee County) shamelessly pimped out one of our local fire companies for a campaign mailer, his ad headlines the top of the page.
Howard B. Owens
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Jeff, Marc is running to represent this county. If I took an ad from Ranzenhofer (who is not from Genesee County), would that be any less "loyal to the community"? Think what you will of the campaign mailer issue, that doesn't negate Coppola's right to buy advertising on the site if he so chooses. FWIW, Coppola reserved the space before he even knew there would be an article on the mailer, and still decided to go ahead with the ad.
Bea McManis
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JoAnne, We so rarely agree, it is nice to see we come together on this one :) Your vision is exactly right! That is the identity that downtown Batavia should consider. We have the talent, and the location for becoming the center that showcases ag products in Western New York. Rather than trying to be a 'big' city, we are better off celebrating our rural roots (no pun intended).
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I'd love to see downtown filled with specialty shops. The problem is, as far as I can tell, Batavia and the surrounding areas just don't have the demographics to support it. Entrepreneurs aren't going to rush to open shops like these in a community that doesn't have the disposable income to support it. My wife and I have looked into 2 different business ideas in the last 6 years with the thought of opening downtown. When I did a realistic assessment of whether the community could support our ideas we had to admit that there just isn't enough disposable income locally to take the chance. No, that isn't an excuse to support Walmart. I won't step foot in there if I don't have to.
Jeff Allen
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I honestly think that if loyalty to community is first then that trumps his having reserved the space. When the story broke that the Pembroke Fire Chief clearly expressed that their company was disrespected by the mailer, then TheBatavian should have stressed to Mr. Coppola that the community comes before ad profits and refund his money. Secondly, even if Ranzenhofer doesn't buy ad space, running only one candidate has the appearance of publication partisanship. Again, this is part of the problem, money trumps fairness. The candidate who put up the ad revenue gets unchallenged exposure on TheBatavian. A simple no thank you to Mr. Coppola unless Mr. Ranzenhofer also buys ad space. I understand that is not how all publications do it. But to be truly non-partisan, it should be.
Chris Charvella
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Jeff, what you're asking Howard to do is shake down Ranz for ad money while holding Marc's ad hostage. Aren't you a free market guy?
Jeff Allen
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No Chris, what I'm proposing is not letting money rule the day. If a publication claims to be non-partisan, then it's both or none. Free market principles should not apply to elections since an office is not intended to be a commodity, but an act of service to a community. Unfortunately, it has been kidnapped by big money, both corporate and labor.
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Jeff I agree with you in spirit about the money in politics, but I don't think taking an ad from a candidate is partisanship. My sole reason for that is simple, if Ranz had wanted an ad, I know Howard would have sold it to him. When I ran last year I bought an ad on the Batavian, but if I hadn't, I wouldn't have been angry with Howard for running ads for the other guy.
Jeff Allen
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Isn't principle worth more than revenue?
Howard B. Owens
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No principle was violated here. First, honest people will disagree over whether Coppola did anything wrong in his mailer. While it's well known that I don't buy into the traditional standards of journalistic objectivity, I'm also under no obligation to take one side against another. And if you did a little checking, Jeff, you might discover that this issue has blown over in light of Marc's apology for the misunderstanding (at least as I understand it). Second, Mr. Ranzenhofer has a substantial war chest. All I'm going to say publicly is that Mike had AMPLE opportunity to reserve space on The Batavian weeks before Mr. Coppola inquired about the space. Jeff, I'm 100 percent comfortable that I did the honest, ethical, moral and principled thing in accepting Mr. Coppola's ad and if your blind partisanship doesn't allow you to see that, that's your problem, not mine.

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