How do you become a “cool” community?

9 11 2009

AMSTERDAM

This afternoon, I had a really great conversation with my sister-in-law about what would help boost various communities in our area. She grew up in the area, and her husband is running one of the best up-and-coming real estate firms in Fulton County (shameless plug for a relative here).
We agreed that this area needs to raise its “cool” status a bit in order to rebound from tough economic times. We mentioned a bunch of stores that could help, which I don’t need to provide free advertising here.
But here’s the quandary. What does a community need to do raise its “cool” factor?
If you look at the cities around here — Amsterdam, Gloversville and Johnstown — each is taking a separate approach.
Amsterdam is begging for higher income families to move into the city with the hopes the higher-end businesses will come. However, Amsterdam will continue to struggle in this area unless it actually provides something that will attract this demographic.
Gloversville is focusing on its downtown, believing success will spread outward from its city core. However, Gloversville’s downtown features rent-to-own stores, a couple of pizza places and a failing theater. Hardly the type of businesses to raise its coolness quotient.
Johnstown seems to be relying on its history as a building block for its comeback. However, there’s no solid downtown development plan, which is why Johnstown’s center looks so mixed up and unattractive.
So how can this be solved? It’s hard to say.
Amsterdam has the potential to be the coolest city along the Mohawk River, and yet it can’t seem to get over the hump because people have this notion that it can be another Saratoga Springs, when that will never happen. Amsterdam doesn’t have the race course, the performing arts center or the income base.
The same problematic approach exists in Gloversville and Johnstown.
If we are to solve the problem, I think we may need to start with the people already here.
In my not-so-humble opinion, for every so-called “naysayer” and chronic complainer in each community, there are at least two people who truly care about the community they live in and only want to make it the best place possible.
However, most of these people are also fully aware of the problems facing their communities and are not blinded by grandiose dreams of status and splendor. But, they want to tackle these problems head-on.
Maybe we should start listening to these people, instead of the people who have had their hand in the local cookie jar for far too long.
I think that may be happening in Amsterdam … given the results of the election for city council and supervisor. Gloversville also elected a mayor who seems to care about his home. Johnstown didn’t change it’s government too much, but I’ve always been a fan of their mayor and eventually, given the right circumstances, I think they can turn things around there.
Those are just my general thoughts. Any specific ideas are more than welcomed.

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