This evening (May 7, 2013) the Greensboro City Council will vote on the future of their stake of ownership of the Bessemer shopping center and in turn, the Renaissance Co-Op. In case I do not get a chance to read this statement at tonight’s meeting. I am publishing it here.
Members of Council and Members of the Greater Greensboro Community, I am here to encourage council to retain this investment in the growth of our city. While some in this room may feel like we don’t need to have the city make these types of investments, I beg to differ.
All of you who sit on the dais are there because your care about your local community. You all want to support job creation, home ownership, and a strong local economy. You all want your individual neighborhoods to be stronger and capable of producing positive growth.
It is in this spirit that I encourage you to maintain your support of the Bessemer Center and your stake in the Renaissance Co-Op. This council would gladly put up funding for a major national corporation or retailer to move into the city. However, have you all stopped to think about how that corporation started? That many of the grocery chains began as corner stores, corner stores that anchored and strengthened communities. Unlike some of these manufacturing operations that have come in in the last few years, there is always a demand for fresh food at affordable prices and manpower needed to staff these stores. There are also plenty of service organizations and community groups who are willing to train workers, which may also provide a cost savings of labor, that will not be detrimental to real wages of these people. That alone would lower our unemployment rate.
Need I remind you that this council has a growing history of supporting community projects and community entrepreneurs. This ownership will allow more citizens of Greater Greensboro to have an ownership stake in something that serves our community. All one has to do is turn on the TV or pull up the news online to see that the local food and local merchant movement is more than a passing fad.
That same Internet allows many products that would never have a shelf-life in the pre internet days to be million and billion selling enterprises. Granted, this co-op could have modest financial returns, but for many, the city’s stake in the process would allow people to get a taste of what it’s like to actually own something or create something.
Currently, there is a a lot of momentum around what Greensboro is doing to better itself, namely downtown. Yet, we cannot forget that the vast majority of our citizenry lives elsewhere. They too deserve the ability to walk or make a short drive to services right around the corner.
Lastly, to the community itself. I know it’s not Harris Teeter or something fancier. Yet, as I just told the council, we have to start somewhere. Food is food, as long as it is fresh, reasonably priced and healthy. With the city’s stake in this co-op, there are many of us who can afford to purchase a stake in something positive for this community, that we can have a hand in saying how workers are paid, food is priced and even how long it is open. As we have seen over the years, the larger retailers appear to have no concern for this at all.
So let’s just see how this goes. What harm is it in trying to run this co-op? After all, for 15 years that space has been vacant. Anything’s better than vacant right?