Sunday, November 22, 2015

Overcoming Anti-Growth Mentality

For roughly eighteen years, I lived around the Kaiserslautern-Ramstein area (working around the US military there).  One of the chief features that I came to learn of Kaiserslautern is that there is an intense dislike of any major start-up business in town.  There is always significant pressure brought by current business owners on the city leadership.....to prevent new major businesses from opening.  That was the scheme with Wal-Mart when they tried in the early 1990s to get established and you can cite dozens of attempts to either halt or downsize any new operation from opening.

The explanation for this was that Kaiserslautern had only X amount of potential for customers and the current owner crowd didn't want new businesses taking away their potential.

In some ways, Kaiserslautern is this small-town situation.....where unemployment runs high, young residents end up leaving town to find real jobs, and there is no growth.

A couple of years ago, the 'battleship' of Kaiserslautern.....Karstadt (a major upscale shopping operation) finally said enough and shut down.  They couldn't clear enough profit to make it worth operating.  Their store.....near the shopping district.....was the magnet for people come downtown.  Oddly, a number of people didn't want anyone to move into the old store.....believing it'd take customers away from shops on the shopping district.  In the end, a major renovation took place and the building was used in a different way for smaller upscale shops.

I noticed this week that the local media in K-town talked up the experience now of Ikea.....which had opened 100 days ago on the outskirts of town and was discussing it's impact on the city's economy.

First, they added 190 new jobs to the city.....something rare these days in Kaiserslautern.

Second, locals note more out-of-town plates in the Ikea parking lot.....meaning people are driving a fair distance to experience Ikea-shopping.

Third, the mayor commented that there's millions in tax-revenue that will come to benefit the state.

As for the loss of business for downtown?  Well.....no one can cite any change.  They haven't lost any business as this Ikea store opened up.  Maybe things will change around Kaiserslautern.....but I have my doubts.

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