By ED JENKINS
Shopping local sounds great and I have done my best for 12 years now. Certainly there are some well run and wonderful local businesses I frequent. I do not even mind the Whidbey tax of slightly higher prices.
What I do expect is a pleasant shopping experience, not feeling like I am doing the business a favor by having to jump through hoops just to shop, get a call returned or find them open during posted hours. People want to live here and think they will open a business to support a life here.
Sadly, many have no concept of how to run a business so they set high prices to cover expenses. High prices and poor business practices lead to fewer customers so prices get raised again and… you get the drift.
Then we have South Clinton, or is that Port Clinton or just Clinton or Lake Wobegon. I don’t know where I live anymore. This group with its Ken’s Korner/Freeland envy somehow convinced the state to spend thousands of tax dollars creating a report in 2008 that was never addressed. Then the Port of South Whidbey spends thousands of tax dollars to send them away for a paid weekend to get a vision. When none materializes, the port spends more thousands of tax dollars for a report that gives no answers except to do roundabouts, build arterial roads through the park and ride, Dan Porter Park, through a wetland and the front yards of a few houses ending in a cliff? Naturally in this alternate universe that all makes sense and will of course make drivers want to stop for… what?
We the taxpayers are road kill caught in a mental roundabout with our tax dollars flying in every direction. It is a chicken or egg thing. Do we fix what is fundamentally wrong with the south business area first so there will be a place people want to stop at or spend tens of millions for road work that will have no benefit for years if ever. We all know that if the state tried to spend $10 or $20 million for roundabouts there would be a tar and feathering. As to slowing traffic, how about a few speed humps from Wilson Place to the Chevron? Very inexpensive, very effective and if business shoots up then look at more elaborate solutions. So what is the answer?
I believe it is not that hard. Here is my take based on many years of large, successful businesses. They were successful because I had a knack for advertising and running a sound shop. There are already some reasonably successful businesses that have survived because they serve the local needs. None are tourist stops but a market, gym, services like attorneys and dentists etc. They do not care about slowing traffic as people come to them because they provide good service and fill a need.
The Clinton chamber should work with the port to hire good business consultants, hold workshops and help strengthen and grow current businesses. Nothing draws new business like existing successful businesses. Someone needs to be the adult here and let South Clinton be what the local residents want it to be and just give this tourist destination thing a rest and let our tax dollars do some actual good.
In the end, though, we need to accept that every business is not fixable. There is a reason why 50 to 80 percent of new business fail. Everyone is just not cut out for the roll. Throwing good money after bad will never fix that, but money spent wisely and realistically can have a positive effect. For that end I would gladly support my tax dollars lending a helping hand and I would be the first to volunteer to help.
Editor’s note: Ed Jenkins is a longtime Clinton resident.