Business group needs to push development

The decision by a number of Bay Street business owners to resurrect the Bay Street Merchants Association presumably bodes well for the future of downtown Port Orchard.

As has been well-chronicled in recent weeks, a number of exciting projects are on the drawing board for the city’s stagnant commercial core, and it follows that a motivated, well-organized association of those whose livelihoods depend on having a vibrant Bay Street could play a huge role in making sure the good things happen.

Or not.

Depending on which faction within the group ultimately asserts control, it’s also possible the new Bay Street Merchants Association could be a force for maintaining downtown’s deteriorating status quo.

To that end, it’s hard to get a read on the intentions of the fledgling group’s newly appointed representative Don Atkinson.

““If any of the proposed downtown developments reach fruition —— and I believe they will,” Atkinston said last week, “it might be great for the city overall, but very disruptive for downtown merchants.””

In the short term, perhaps, but hopefully Atkinson isn’t suggesting that Bay Street’s merchants and the residents of the community don’t have the same goals and desires.

It’s clearly in the best interests of both to encourage investment and quality development downtown, eventually resulting in a destination shopping experience for customers and clients from throughout the region.

Unfortunately, improvements on that scale come at a cost, and it’s unlikely the entire character of Port Orchard can be changed without someone — or someone’s business — being hurt or left out of the process.

We’re hopeful the new merchants’ association will recognize this fact and take a long-term view. Rather than trying to preserve every single existing downtown business by avoiding any and all disruptions, the goal of the association should be to do what’s best for the majority of current — and future — members.

In short, the new group can be either a catalyst for change or an obstacle in the road Port Orchard must take to secure its future.

Will that mean some struggling businesses that might otherwise have limped along a little longer might not survive the transformation?

Quite possibly. But sometimes a few branches need to be pruned in order to save the larger tree.

If that sounds insensitive, compare it to the alternative — standing in the way of progress for the entire downtown business community, and by extension all of Port Orchard, in order to prolong the agony of a handful of businesses that very possibly wouldn’t have made it anyhow.

If you’ve spent any time at all around Port Orchard, you know Bay Street has been a revolving door for years, with businesses opening with the best of intentions one day and closing the next. To be sure, some were undercapitalized, unprepared or simply had a bad idea to begin with, but the dramatic increase in foot traffic promised by a major overhaul of the downtown landscape certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

The question at this point is whether Bay Street and its current crop of business leaders are finally going to let something be done about it or whether they’re going to consign another generation to a hit-or-miss future.

Bay Street stands at a fork in the road. One way leads to a glittering tomorrow, while the other leads down a dead-end street.

Here’s hoping the merchants choose the right path.

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