For as long as jonquils have burst forth from cold, lifeless earth each Easter, townsfolk hereabouts have bemoaned or clamored for economic development.
If only a big enough, professional enough, focused enough staff were to wave a magic wand furiously enough, dozens of jobs would surely sprout like flowers in spring.
Alas, Marion’s ascendance from the crucifying curse of rural depopulation’s pilgrimage to urban sprawl is unlikely to be assured by magic or mysticism.
Yet, as surely as flowers provide bright orbs of hope each spring, small bits of magic are beginning to poke their way up from what to many seemed all-too-lifeless soil.
Take the renovation of Marion’s historic 1900 former post office at 4th and Main Sts. Cleared of decades of stuccoed detritus, its sagging native stone walls are getting a much needed cosmetic facelift and structural overhaul.
It may seem a superficial project but it represents another important step forward in reversing a dangerous trend toward abandonment and neglect and replacing it with one that turns potential eyesores into realized eye candy.
All around town, you see the signs — historically appropriate refurbishment replacing demolition, decay, and down-and-dirty fixes. Whenever a property owner takes steps to improve the community’s curb appeal, as Marion’s new economic development director puts it, we take another step toward the economic viability the town so deeply desires.
Restoring an old building, planting a new tree instead of cutting down an old one, parking only in places meant for cars, painting, decorating, taking pride in appearance, and refusing to let structures tumble in around us are more magical than anything a veritable roomful of economics developers could ever do for our community.
Absent an available skilled work force, a fortuitous location near a transportation hub, or any other sort of inherent financial or human advantage, what Marion has going for it are its people and whether they care enough to make it a community capable of attracting the type of new neighbors we want.
A town that looks junky and in disrepair, as if residents don’t care, will soon find its economy blighted as well. And no amount of economic development efforts will ever make a difference.
Simply put, economic development begins at home — at each of our own homes, to be specific.
Don’t sit back and wait for Randy Collett, talented as he might be, to improve our community’s fortunes. For that, each of us needs to step forward.
Improve our job skills. Improve our property. Improve our citizenship and pride. And each petal of hope we produce will help the community blossom into the future it deserves.
— ERIC MEYER