| G. Michael Dobbs
Since the purchase of The Reminder by the parent company of The Republican in July of last year, the two news gathering entities have run parallel courses.
The staff on Main Street in Springfield has continued to follow their advertising and editorial missions, while we on North Main Street in East Longmeadow have done the same.
There was an opportunity for some cross publication synergy with the annual publication of “Outlook,” the annual Republican publication that takes the economic temperature of the region.
The suggestion was made that Reminder Publishing could do something similar, but keeping with what we do here: community news.
So while The Republican did the macro in its “Outlook” published on Sunday, The Reminder will do micro in this version.
In this inaugural edition of our version of “Outlook,” you will read columns from local elected officials about the status of their communities, the progress and the challenges facing them.
You will also read a number of stories that look at certain business sectors in Hampden County.
The editorial idea is to give you a status report about where we live – what we try to do each week – but in this special edition in somewhat broader terms.
This is an exciting time in the Pioneer Valley. We achieved great exposure in the Northeast with the opening of MGM Springfield. The additional north-south commuter train service will link Greenfield with New Haven, CT and points south to New York City. CCRC has orders through 2020 to build train cars. The legalization of cannabis has provided another means of both revenue for cities and towns and economic development.
We are poised to be a tourism destination of considerable diversity. Consider what we offer all within a few miles of one another: MGM, the Basketball Hall of Fame, Six Flags New England, the many attractions offered at the Eastern States Exposition, the Springfield Museums, the Springfield Armory Historic Site, the Wistariahurst Museum and the Children’s Museum of Holyoke.
The Thunderbirds’ success has helped area businesses as well.
These big stroke economic engines are helping to fuel small business and small business is the backbone of our local economy. In theory that’s what is supposed to happen and in practice that is what is happening.
Recently I wrote a story about Hot Oven Cookies, a new cookie bakery on Main Street in Springfield. They are doing well, in part of their superior product and in part because of the increased foot traffic in downtown due to more people living downtown and more people wandering about due to MGM.
My buddy City Jake at City Jake’s Café has reported an influx in business from people in town at MGM seeking a good breakfast. My friend Joseph Hendrix at Smokey Joe’s Cigar Lounge has seen visitors from the casino come into his establishment in order to smoke a fine cigar.
In Chicopee, two projects converting former mill buildings into market-rate apartments will undoubtedly be the development to help spur additional business development in the downtown area.
In Holyoke, the cannabis business is spurring development there.
Being a guy who seeks the glass half-full about most issues, I think we are moving in a positive direction. We have a lot of offer, such urban communities minutes away from rural areas with mass transit options that link this area with major metropolitan ones. We have public schools systems that are meeting the challenges of education in the 21st Century head-on. We have a diverse population that has created a local culture with many layers and complexities.
I’m always proud to say of Hampden County, “Everyone lives here.”
Is there room for improvement, though? Yes. I prefer to see it as opportunity.
For instance, there has always been an emphasis on the downtowns of many of our communities and there has been a backlash from people who believe neighborhoods are not receiving the same attention.
In Springfield, the redevelopment of the Paramount Theater block is an important project to complete the downtown. In Holyoke the restoration of the Victory theater is just as important.
The availability of cannabis will spur travel and visitation. How can we best capitalize on it?
We must have cooperative marketing for our tourism attractions and aim it at the most logical markets.
The area’s many fine colleges and universities have long attracted people to our area. How can we keep these students here after graduation?
Increasing the number and capacity of entrepreneurial support organizations should lead to more small business creation and more jobs.
Working more closely with businesses to meet their needs is always an issue. Providing students with the skills businesses need is another challenge we must meet.
Retention of businesses is increasingly important.
We have a lot to offer here and we have the capacity to grow even more than we have in the past several years.
My staff and I see the potential everyday as we cover this area. Personally I’m proud to say I’m a Springfield guy, and a Western Massachusetts partisan.
We hope you enjoy our version of “Outlook.”