It's time to unite or die
Decisions are made by those who show up. Whether that sentence first was said by Benjamin Franklin, Woody Allen, or Jed Bartlett on “The West Wing,” it’s an aphorism of considerable wisdom — and one that businesses in Marion should strongly consider.
Twice a month, a group of dedicated local business leaders meet informally, without dues, officers, or obligations, as Marion Merchants Association to discuss how businesses might work together to improve the economy for everyone.
This week, just 11 people showed up, and the interests represented were far from a comprehensive list of the city’s leading businesses.
We congratulate County Seat Home Décor, EBH Engineering, Edward’s Restaurant, Historic Elgin Hotel, JR Hatters, St. Luke Hospital, Tacos Food Truck, and Western Associates, along with two representatives of this newspaper, for caring enough about Marion to sacrifice a single hour, from 8 until 9 a.m. Monday, to try to promote the common good.
But where was everybody else? Is the meeting time bad? Is the leadership — or lack thereof — offensive? Are tribal feuds preventing cooperation? Or is everyone else so busy raking in money that they see no reason to cooperate?
Granted, Marion’s retail lineup isn’t what it used to be. But we still have a supermarket, a pharmacy, three banks, an auto parts dealer, a hardware store, a building supply center, four other restaurants, and countless other businesses, ranging from antique emporiums, fitness centers, and salons to auto repair businesses and other specialized shops and services.
Decisions are made by those who show up, but decisions essentially are meaningless if those with the biggest stakes aren’t even involved. Marion’s economy has devolved into a series of uncoordinated efforts by individual businesses and cliquish committees putting on isolated events that fail to tie together to form a cohesive strategy that benefits the entire town.
Support for community events has to be more predictably organized than waiting for Mike Beneke to whip a $100 bill out of his wallet and contribute it to an upcoming street dance, as he did Monday.
Bad as that might be in normal times, these aren’t normal times. Every town, large or small, is struggling to cope with unprecedented challenges caused by months of stay-at-home stagnation. Without broad-based leadership and involvement of all major local businesses, the “new normal” for Marion is likely to be a downward spiral, symbolically represented by the vultures that roost nightly on the city’s old water tower.
Now is the time for all good businesses to come to the aid of each other. They do in Hillsboro, in Peabody, and in Florence in the form of chambers of commerce. Even Tampa, Ramona, Lincolnville, and unincorporated Pilsen and Aulne seem more united than Marion.
If there are problems with Marion Merchants Association and where, when, and how it meets, it’s time for those who don’t show up to make their concerns known so they can be addressed.
It’s also time for their customers to become involved, too. Mention to the businesspeople you deal with that you’ve noticed whether they have been actively involved in efforts to improve the local economy beyond depositing whatever money you spend with them. Challenge them to find a way to support the entire community, not just their own individual businesses and causes.
The pandemic mantra about all of us being in this together means more than just washing our hands, standing six feet apart, and wearing facemasks — which few continue to do. It means putting aside selfish or petty differences and coming together for the common good.
We no longer have the luxury of indulging in past squabbles as an excuse for apathy. The time to act is now — before it’s too late.
— ERIC MEYER
Last modified June 24, 2020