Downtown revitalization

Jeff Genung

It wasn’t exactly the United Nations, but it was certainly a meeting of the minds. I had the opportunity to go to the “Downtown Summit” Tuesday night, put on by representatives of the Norwich BID, Commerce Chenango, downtown merchants and organized by my good friend, Martha Ryan.

There was, I’ll admit, a certain sense of deja vu in the concept behind the meeting – revitalizing downtown. In the last 17 years, I bet I’ve been to that same meeting at least a dozen times. I still eagerly await the revitalization.

I say that somewhat facetiously, of course, because I have in fact seem microbursts of revitalization in downtown Norwich throughout the years. I’ve seen scores of businesses start up with grand plans and fail miserably; precious few are those which started, stuck it out, and succeeded.

I’m no expert in the field of business, and certainly no entrepreneur, but I can smell a business that’s not going to make it a mile away. Those who fail to plan, as the saying goes, can plan to fail. Some stores or restaurants that have opened in Norwich over the years … it makes you wonder if the owners were just sitting around with a six pack watching UFC when they said, “Hey, we should open a business!”

The instances where inspired genius like that have actually succeeded are few and far between – and usually backed by a large amount of money and/or luck. Don’t count on that, folks.

I’m hopeful something good will come out of the Downtown Summit, and not just for downtown Norwich but for Oxford, Sherburne, Greene and New Berlin as well. A vital downtown is essential not only to the economic health of a community, but its cultural and spiritual health as well. There’s a lot of good to be found in our downtown – and a lot of potential to fill those empty storefronts with homegrown talent in businesses which augment what’s already here.