Every New Year, tradition expects us to make New Year resolutions. Why?
Usually, they are broken within days and what is there about a new date on the calendar that says we have to change our behavior now?
Do you plan to lose weight? Exercise more? Quit smoking or drinking? Great. But why do we need to wait until a new year?
If your doc tells you in July or October your health is in jeopardy unless you do one or more of the above, why wait until the ball drops to start taking care of yourself?
For those reasons and more, I do not play that game.
Instead, I look to where we were as the old year wound down and what that bodes for the new calendar we are now opening.
As regular readers of this space know, economic development has become a major interest to me. Alpine is a great town but it could be just a little greater with some more business activity downtown – a few less empty storefronts.
But plenty of evidence reveals that some things have started coming together and, as in all things, success begets success.
A quick look at the center of town reveals a new façade and a new store in the old J.C. Penney building, evidence of some of the changes. Next door, District Judge Roy B. Ferguson is renovating the old First National Bank building, which he now owns.
The marbleized brick exterior came out of years of hiding behind a false façade and a big wood and metal awning. Ferguson, with Harlan and Liz Sibley chipping in, hired Clayton Shoot’s Clayton Construction to do the work.
Nearby, two new murals are in place, financed by Alpine’s Gallery Night Inc., the folks behind the annual Artwalk festival, and painted by Cleburne artist Stylle Read. More and more downtown buildings have become canvases for displaying art.
And Bella Dental West Texas, a full-service dental office, recently opened at 102 N. 7th on the east side of the Casner Building.
Further out, Shopko Hometown provided retail activity in the old Alco store that sat idle for most of the year.
That’s just a small sample and more is in the works.
Late in the year, the city contracted with Sul Ross’ Small Business Development Center to help develop a vision plan for downtown.
The city has expressed an interest in economic development for some time. The main problem is a budget affected by money management problems of the past and a $7 million debt for an $11.5 million budget with streets all over town still in serious need of repair.
City Manager Erik Zimmer figured out a while ago that just to keep up with maintenance on city streets would require an expense of about $1.2 million a year. This year, he was able to get that line item “up to” about $600,000, still about half of what we need.
Clearly, we can’t look to the city for the Big Bucks, at least not right now.
An early goal for this year for me – OK, call it a resolution, if you like – is to get some business people together and form some kind of merchants association. Frequently, that kind of collaboration can free up some grants.
And by passing the proverbial hat, those that can will chip in and provide some needed seed money for other projects.
There already exists a good working relationship on Murphy Street with positive developments there and Betty Gaddis Yndo, the spark plug for that collaboration, told me she is interested in working with others north of the tracks to make that happen.
The elements are coming into alignment. Now let’s make it happen.
Jim Street covers Alpine and Brewster County for the Alpine Avalanche. He can be reached at 432-837-3334, firstname.lastname@example.org or 118 N. 5th St.