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Ironton business owners discuss future

Group looks for ways to attract customers

On Tuesday night, some 30 business owners gathered in the Ironton City Center lobby to talk about what can be done to bring people to downtown to shop. Also at the meeting were Ironton aLive’s executive director Sam Heighton, Ironton in Bloom’s Mike Pearson and Ironton Mayor Katrina Keith.

The meeting was held to see if there was enough support to form a business association group and to get ideas about what is being done and what can be done to attract shoppers to town.

The meeting covered a lot of ground in two hours. Some of it was about the trees, including the lilac trees that have been planted by Ironton in Bloom in the last couple of years, and a whole lot about the berry trees that leave a mess on the sidewalks of the town.

There was a long discussion about what can be done about business owners who leave their building empty on purpose so they can get a tax write off. One suggestion was to ask the city council to pass a vacancy tax to encourage building owners to get a tenant in the building.

Keith pointed out that the downtown would never be like it was in the past, where everyone shopped downtown because that is where all the businesses were.

“We cannot live in the past, but we can learn from the past to build for the future,” she said.

She pointed that for her generation, the mall was their go-to place to shop because it has multiple stores and it was a place to hang out with friends.

She said that for many people, Walmart was the place to go for its “one stop shop” aspect.

She said that what a local business can do, that Walmart can’t, is provide better service.

“The last time I got my tires changed, I had it done in Ironton and they even came and picked up my car,” Keith said. “Walmart can’t do that for you. That’s the type of service I am talking about.”

Keith pointed out that Ironton aLive does Ironton Bucks that can be used only in Ironton stores.

“That way, the money stays here in town,” she said.

There was also a discussion on turning some of the larger buildings into spaces for three or four businesses in one place, along the lines of the Peddler Marts that are put into former large chain store buildings.

On Wednesday morning, Heighton went around to update business owners who couldn’t attend the meeting.

He said there would be another business owner meeting at 5:30 p.m. on March 6 at the City Center. The subject will be about forming a business association.
Heighton said that although some are against the idea of a formal organization, it is needed.

“I’ve learned from networking at other places, that once you have an organization like that, merchants start knowing each other and buying off each other. They tell their friends and relatives,” he said. “It mushrooms into more business. That has been my whole point of getting this going, to get merchants more familiar with each other.”