Monday, November 07, 2005

Synergy needed in Tarentum

What does Tarentum need? More code enforcement, attracting long-term residents, a merchant's association, state or federal redevelopment grants, and a better working relationship of the borough with local businesses are among the suggestions.

A string of articles in the Valley News Dispatch have told about the local election campaigns and the prescriptions offered by the candidates. In addition to this article about the mayoral race, there have been two articles that covered the races for positions on the borough Council on November 2 and November 6.

There is a limit to what local government can accomplish, and there may be very few limits to what positive developments a local government can stifle. I would go along with any of the suggestions that recognize that the borough can foster a climate in which local businesses can succeed.

If downtown Tarentum is going to thrive in the shadow of the Pittsburgh Mills, it needs a greater synergy among the downtown businesses. The local businesses need to function in a way that recognizes and affirms that each of their neighboring businesses are potentially a source of new customers. They need to find ways to make sure that the person who stops at one downtown establishment discovers a neighboring establishment that also has something to offer. Then going downtown can become more an event rather than merely an errand.

Last week I was having coffee at Corbet Street's Central Perk and got into a conversation with the manager of Harrison's Men's Wear. He mentioned a recent change in the provider of their rental tuxedos. I do about one wedding a year so I asked him if he had any literature on the new tux program. The next day he handed me a short stack of packets I can give out as information that might be helpful to couples planning weddings. There are many other possibilities for those of us who work downtown to work together, but not many regular forums in which we can network.

What would a visit to downtown Tarentum be like if a child accompanying a parent on a trip to the drug store could afterwards sit down with the parent and have a milkshake and conversation before leaving downtown? What if parents could drop their children off for dance classes and then relax over a cup of coffee and conversation before heading homeward? What if there were information available in local gathering places about upcoming ceramics or dance or pet training classes?

One of the candidates wants a merchants' association to work to attract niche businesses. Frankly, niche businesses are all we are going to attract. One thing that will attract them is a visible synergy among the existing local businesses. Every new business in town will open up possibilities for new relationships and networking, if the local businesses are ready to work at it.

That is not something local government can legislate, but government can foster a climate in which business leaders are encouraged to look for ways to work together.

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