“There has to be a change in mindset if we really want to grow.”
Those words were spoken to me during a conversation about economic development in Minden and Webster Parish. They were not idle words from an uninformed source, and it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard such a statement.
There are those who believe our community is just fine as it is. The size is right. The population is right. Everything just feels right. Any growth or change is seen as a threat to “the way things should be.”
Unfortunately, this sentiment simply isn’t accurate.
I am reminded of a time when a major retailer — that was outgrowing its current store — wanted to build and move within the city limits of Minden. They found the land that would work. They had done their due diligence on the parking, drainage, and other requirements. Everything was “full steam ahead.” Or, so they thought.
The retailer was Walmart, and when the neighborhoods surrounding the chosen site found out their plans, the outcry was loud.
From falling property values to “light pollution,” no good could come of this, these folks claimed. City Council Members received “ugly” phone calls, but held their ground. After all, there was nothing on the books that said Walmart couldn’t or shouldn’t move to this particular location.
What was decried as a “travesty” has been the catalyst for development on the north end of Homer Road. In addition to Walmart, we now have Hibbetts, Game Stop, The Shoe Dept., a new Pizza Hut, Dollar Tree, a new Sonic, Cricket Wireless, etc.
To the best of my knowledge, homes in the neighboring community have increased in value, oblivious to the effects of the retail giant in their backyard.
In addition, Minden has become a retail hub for surrounding communities like Homer, Arcadia, and Ringgold.
That’s the good news that comes with progress. However, that’s where the “pretty picture” ends.
Since 2000, Minden’s population has dropped by more than five percent, and the parish has dropped similarly. This means fewer taxpayers to fund roads, schools, public safety, etc.
Staying just as we are isn’t working. If it weren’t for the increased retail base, and the sales taxes generated by it, the struggle would be felt in a much greater way.
Those that are opposed to growth and progress wonder why the “kids” leave town.
Those that are opposed to growth and progress wonder why there are fewer basic services, and those they have now cost more.
Those that are opposed to growth and progress are quick to blame the “big city” to our west for the exodus of dollars from our community.
Maybe, those that are opposed to growth and progress have a better plan for sustainability of our community? If so, I’d like to hear it.
There are countless opportunities on our horizon for growth and progress. Whether or not we seize those opportunities is directly proportional to the number of people willing to get behind and support the initiatives.
We have to put our personal agendas and desires aside for the greater good — good for our children and grandchildren — even if it inconveniences us.
I am reminded of the motto of my Basic Military Training Squadron in the U.S. Air Force. I believe it to be true for the efforts of economic development in Minden and Webster Parish.
“Lead. Follow. Or get out of the way.”