In an ideal world we wouldn’t drop dead, would we?
In an ideal world when three-hundred thousand cubic metres of muddy slush wipes its fist across our village we would wake up happier than ever, even though our two year old and our grandma choked to death on a fish.
This happens a lot.
It happened in Bangladesh recently.
But we expect everyone to wake up, happy as Larry, and smile that our cities, our streets and our town centres are just fine.
Even though tsunamis of neglect flake off layers off our community.
Where a businessman has laid down his body in a laneway, and fought to bring about rainbows of solutions to a blighted community such as vitality, engagement, economy, local employment, security and safety – kiss him on the bloody cheek.
I wont name who, in my community, this could be. I am spineless.
But if you are walking down a laneway and you say to yourself, ‘Hey, this is pretty cool’ I bet you 50 cents that you will be looking at a business, which means there is a woman or a man who has looked at the same place and thought, ‘This sucks ass,’ and then gone out to change it.
First of all, no one will have given a crap. If they did this for three months and disappeared they will be condemned as idealists who ‘do not understand business’.
I’m sorry. Identify any man with grey hair in his ears, plant the subject of independent retailers and you will soon hear a complaint about idealistic businespeople who ‘cannot read the market’.
On the contrary.
What our idealist did was read the market perfectly. Absolutely perfectly.
They walk into your scummy village, laneway or street – or even city – and said. ‘Despite no support from big business, the government or evidently the local community, I see that there is potential in this city …’
They are the Mother Richard-Branson Theresa’s of your community.
‘I am going to grow here. I am going to plant my seed here.’
‘I am going to do business here.’
Now how many grandpas have actually taken an urge and lathed a business into shape from it?
None. That’s how many.
But our idealist has turned your neglected laneway into a realisation, even if they drown after a few nutritious clutches of dry sand.
That’s great, I say.
And on their bones we can gang-plank to the mangoes.
However, this poses a bit of a problem.
You are a local government official. Or a town planner. Or an architect, or a student, or something like that.
You know that funkiness, quirkiness and many other ‘nesses all mean that soon a resilient, nutritious smile will be upon your community and economy.
You are employed and educated but the bedrock of your community and economy is established … umm … how, you say?
By independent business. That’s how.
You’ve been to Melbourne, you’ve been to Lyon, you’ve been to Beeliar – you know that something creates something and they add up to ‘funkiness’ that good-looking people want.
And you want them. You want them in your city, chewing the fat with eachother, don’t you?
Because you know they will invite their friends, and then your city will become good-looking, too, wont it?
And you actually realise that it’s them and their friends that start the funky businesses, don’t you?
And so if Witchery or David Jones or K-Mart or Apple ever have a look at your city they’re going to want to see a bedrock of good-looking business-people chewing the fat with eachother, aren’t they?
Of course they are.
Mr Apple, Witchery, David Jones, or whatever, will all come down to your little town and have lunch and get drunk or whatever it is that they do, and if they write in their journal that ‘[insert your town’s name here] sucks ass’, there is no way that their time, money, effort, happy snaps or goodwill are going to hang around.
They will move on.
And because you’re smart you wouldn’t expect them to do anything else, would you?
So how the heck are we going to go from Scummy to Yummy Mummy?
Well, don’t look now, but I think I have a solution.
This is what you’re gong to do: you’re going to budget at least $100,000 in the next financial year to investigate, interrogate and bring to your streets real industry knowledge on independent retail and place management.
I don’t know where you’re going to get this but I suggest you start at the best retail leasing agencies in your city, the best shopping centres and the best retail property recruitment agencies.
If you haven’t got the nurries to do this you should take out a full-page ad in your local newspaper with a big graph pointing downwards, headed: ‘This is How Our Community Will Look Over the Next Five Years’.
If you do not attract the sexiest, best looking, good-looking-est, hot, hippest, understanding-est, knowing-all, guru-ish, independent retailers into your street you will probably go down.
The good news: despite changes, despite the whole ‘bricks and clicks’ malarky, there is always – read: always – high-quality Mortar Retailers out there looking to inject 1,500 millilitres of adrenalin into a community. Find them, understand them, accept them, seduce them.
Hang your nuts out for God’s sake – they’re looking for a pulse.
These people can see a street and tell its future and it past instantly.
And they’re willing to put their nurries on the line to prove that there’s community in your economy yet.
If you do not reach out to them, it’s your your fist that’s wiping away the community and the economy in your street, through neglect.