Empty storefronts in downtown Atlantic are becoming so much of a concern for some City Officials in Atlantic, that the City Administrator said if the matter isn’t addressed quickly, it will become a “Serious Problem.” During his report to the Council, Wednesday, Administrator John Lund said he sat down Tuesday with Atlantic Area Chamber of Commerce Director Ouida Wymer, to discuss the problem. He said he intends to utilize Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) funds to conduct a downtown assessment for the purpose of economic development, and a market analysis conducted by the IEDA (Iowa Economic Development Authority), that might help to attract more businesses to the downtown area.
Lund said the study would include public surveys to identify areas of need, as far as businesses and services are concerned. Mayor Dave Jones said the City paid a good deal of money (About $40,000) about 15 years or so ago, to have a similar study conducted through what at that time, was the recently established Community Promotion Commission. He suggested the Chamber go back through those results and see if some of the goals and needs have been fulfilled, before spending more money for another study.
Jones said the City itself shouldn’t have to be involved in the role of business recruitment, since it has a Chamber of Commerce whose purpose is to promote and recruit new businesses, as well as retain current establishments. He says there seems to be some confusion and finger pointing as to which entity is responsible for recruiting new retails businesses, the Chamber, or the Cass-Atlantic Development
He says someone “Needs to tackle that bull. My personal opinion is, CADCO is a County-wide organization, the Chamber is an Atlantic organization….they should do more attracting retail to that area.” The funds he says, are going to come out of the CPC anyway, which is funded by the City each year. Councilman Bob Cord said CADCO shouldn’t be excluded from the recruitment process, and Jones agreed, but he said they tend to focus on bringing more industry to communities in the County, not so much retail.
Jones said even if CADCO managed to bring in a new business with the potential for 250 jobs, the question remains, where would the employees come from, because Atlantic has a relatively low unemployment rate. He said the City needs to focus on mid-range housing to bring qualified people into town who can fill those jobs.