Many factors at play in downtown woes

Trail's downtown core situation has many contributing factors.

I have returned to the Trail area after an absence of about 20 years. The changes were very noticeable.

Mr. Catalano is correct in his assessment of the Trail core situation (“Business licence protest puts downtown economy in spotlight,” Trail Times July 25). There are a considerable number of factors, which create this condition.

One of the early ones was the Teck down sizing and the elimination of apprenticeships etc. With the exodus of young families from the area came the loss of customers. The building of the Waneta Plaza has also had an effect, although the downsizing was the more dramatic.

Add Walmart to the mix, and you have most of the negative impacts driving the Trail core condition.

Although it may be hard to initially recognize it, globalization and the Free Trade Agreement also compounded the situation as out sourcing eliminates overhead in form of employees and the associated costs (payroll, benefits,and so on) which allegedly makes a business more viable. The business, however needs customers, and since the majority of these customers are leaving town due to no employment the business area withers and dies.

Trail’s major employer, the smelter, is a globally marketed producer and therefore is not impacted by this downward spiral until they need a workforce. Now the local economy becomes a factor for this business. How do you attract new blood to a withering community?

The U.S. shopping situation is not a help to local business either. Variety and pricing are strong attractions and while there used to be a protectionist position with respect to importing, globalization and free trade have pretty much eliminated this.

To be fair to local business their suppliers are contributing to chasing away customers. These wholesalers (often based in Ontario ) fail to understand the symbiotic relationship of supply and demand. Since the wholesaler will not appropriately service their retailer clients, business is essentially driven to the USA.

While buying stateside, these potential customers consume other goods as well as hotels, restaurant and night life services and a host of other attractions. Once this trend is established, it is hard to turn around. I find it interesting that the greater Vancouver business area treats everything east and north of Hope like Toronto, and Ontario at large, treat the rest of Canada.

Basically a “who cares about them,” attitude.

The political mess in Victoria over the last 15 years or so just drives this situation along even more. We are now at the point where the little guy consumer no longer trusts the big guy business and due to Victoria’s ineptness, the consumer lumps much of medium and small business in with the multinationals.

Bleak picture? You bet.

If we collectively in our communities, our provinces, and our country don’t start to pull together to fix these issues we will continue to slide down the slippery slope toward third world status.

Good luck to us all.

J. G. Thompson


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