Speaker espouses virtues of going local | AspenTimes.com
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Speaker espouses virtues of going local

Gina GuarascioCarbondale correspondentAspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE While some people have been drooling over the potential sales tax revenues from development at the Crystal River Marketplace, one author, economist and attorney disputes the idea that big-boxes offer more.And Michael Shuman offers a different solution – one that requires thinking outside the box and inside the local community.Shuman will speak on “Building a Strong and Healthy Local Economy,” at 7 p.m. Thursday at Carbondale Town Hall, with a Q-and-A period afterward. There will be a follow-up discussion from 9:30-11 a.m. Friday. Shuman also plans to meet with the Carbondale trustees.Shuman has earned recognition for his research into the economic advantages of small-scale businesses in an era of globalization. He has authored, co-authored and edited seven books, including “The Small Mart Revolution: How Local Businesses are Beating the Global Competition” and “Going Local: Creating Self-Reliant Communities in the Global Age.”Shuman is coming to see if he can help Carbondale understand the advantages and disadvantages of a large-format retailer. His talk comes 12 days before a scheduled town meeting with the potential developer of the Marketplace site, Rich Schierburg, who is planning a presentation about the possibility of a Home Depot anchoring his 24-acre mixed-use development.Presenting all sidesAfter a lengthy battle, the Carbondale trustees finally agreed to hear a presentation from Home Depot in November. Representatives from the world’s largest home improvement retailer are expected at the Feb. 27 trustees meeting to discuss what the store could offer.”It’s very tiresome to hear people talking about bringing the type of development to town that a majority of the people in town have said they don’t want,” said Economic Roadmap Group member Laurie Loeb, who read Shuman’s books and helped bring him to town. Residents have raised half of the projected $4,000 to bring Shuman here. The trustees agreed to cover up to $2,000 from the town’s Economic Development Fund for the presentation, if necessary.”They are using the support for the big-box being the sales tax revenues, but that’s only a small piece of the puzzle,” said Loeb, a staunch opponent of a 2003 development proposal on the Marketplace that included a large-format retailer, which a citizen referendum overturned.”I think Shuman can show us how it works; it’s not as prosperous as people might want us to believe. He has worked with communities to help them reinforce and develop local businesses that creates a more long-lasting, healthy economy.”Loeb and others, going by Citizens for a Sustainable Carbondale, have forwarded Shuman some background materials on Carbondale, like the town’s Comprehensive Plan, the final report of the RMG, the Energy Plan and the Blue Ribbon Committee’s recent economic report on revenue diversification. This material will help him get up to speed on local issues so he might be able to present some sound advice, Loeb said.”I’m hoping that he’s going to be able to recognize where our real wealth lies and how we can further develop it,” Loeb said. “The trustees’ willingness to have Home Depot come and why they agreed to this is they want to hear all sides. They want to be better informed.Dilemma not uniqueShuman said last week from his home in Washington, D.C., that he hadn’t yet read through all the materials. But he is familiar with the Roaring Fork Valley and, in particular, the pressure Carbondale is facing with the Marketplace property.”At the end of the day, I am very interested in helping communities find points of consensus,” said Shuman, who added that what Carbondale is facing with development pressures is not unique. Other communities have found solutions that work to sustain the quality of life without selling out to the mega-retailers, he said.”It seems to me, developing community-friendly, locally owned retail and nonretail on the property helps almost everyone get what it is they are looking for; you get the tax you’re looking for and the developer gets to cash out. The only folks it doesn’t help are those who think the only salvation is putting a Home Depot on the property.”Shuman said Carbondale’s strong sense of character and history is unique.”One box project can have an enormous effect on the community and harming the quality of life. You have got a lot to lose if a decision is made poorly along these lines,” Shuman said. “I think there is an opportunity to buy the land as a community and undertake the development of the land. There is some precedence with that in the Rocky Mountain states, where people put together a bundle of money and start a mercantile so they have a place to buy their underwear and socks,” Shuman, said. The Marketplace property could be worth at least $8 million, based on recent estimates.Local mortgage broker Drew Sakson said he represents a local investor whose offer of “well over $8 million,” was rejected. Schierburg is the only one with the option to buy the property, and he said that’s what he plans to do. But he is looking for a development proposal that the town will accept before he forks out the money.”At the end of the day, a developer is motivated by only one thing: money. There is always a price that will make a developer capitulate,” Shuman said.”Collective purchase is less ambitious than what they’ve done with the mercantiles. I’m suggesting that you just buy the land and other private entrepreneurs come in and decide how to use the land. Nobody is going to lose their shorts buying land in Carbondale.”In an ideal scenario, Shuman said, the government would float a bond issue to buy the land, and then sell shares to the community, and eventually step out or control only a small percentage.Chasing the fast buck”Many communities across the country are struggling with developers who are trying to make a quick buck. Many are choosing to put in box stores, even when it will damage the community in which they are operating,” Shuman said.”Communities are willing to give a developer a great deal of latitude because of the prevailing belief that big-boxes bring in lots of money,” Shuman said. “That’s why people like me go around and talk about how this is snake oil for community development.”Dollar for dollar, a sale at a chain store will contribute less to the community,” Shuman said. “We know from a dozen or more studies that local businesses spend more in the community. A sale at a hardware store that is local contributes the same amount of tax, but the multiplier effect is much greater.”Shuman said studies show that a typical chain store like a Home Depot will have about 10 to 15 percent of the revenue stream go back into the community, while a locally owned and operated store is typically between 30 to 40 percent. “You’re getting three times more impact from the local hardware store,” Shuman said.”I try to encourage communities to move in this direction to nurture locally owned businesses,” he said. “It doesn’t make sense at any time for the city to make a nonsensible decision, especially when you have a community visioning process that says, ‘We don’t want this,’ and a vote that says, ‘We don’t want this.'”


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