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November 13, 2013

KITCHELL: City must protect endangered species

This week’s question of interest in Logansport is “How many economic development organizations do we need to have a dry cleaner?”

Logansport, which 50 years ago had multiple dry cleaners and no economic development organizations, is about to have two economic development organizations and no dry cleaners.

It’s a curoius economic development situation. County officials announced last week they will have their own economic development staff member for the first time. That leaves the joint city/county organization known as “CLEDO” in limbo because if county officials are pursuing their own course, why would they need an additional city/county organization?

As the new economic development staff member for the county accurately pointed out, most economic development is created through existing business and industry. But if we’re trying to preserve jobs, particularly for small business which generates most jobs, then why not help an existing business, Stite’s Cleaners, which is closing its East Market Street store before the end of the month? The company has cited the economy, less demand for dry cleaning and a flood at its Kokomo location as reasons to end its business, which has been around for nearly 75 years.

Maybe the local demand for dry cleaning has changed because of the loss of white collar jobs traditionally associated with suits and ties, skirts and dresses — and higher salaries. This again could be symptomatic of Cass County’s unusually low college attainment rate.

Another connection that economic development officials for both the city and county to consider is the need for a stable service sector economy that provides the ongoing hometown support residents need and expect from a community with approximately 20,000 people. Losing a dry cleaner may not be the end of the world signals that if one dry cleaner can’t thrive here, similar small businesses with a monopoly on the market may not be able to make it either.

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