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Guest Commentary

13 ways to…


May 12, 2022

POMEROY––“Some small communities thrive and grow while others die offering no hope for future generations.”

Nearly five years ago, the Clarkston Chamber of Commerce invited SEWEDA to attend an event featuring Doug Griffiths, an author promoting his new book entitled “13 Ways to Kill Your Community”. Mr. Griffiths’s presentation was lively and precise, as entertaining as it was informative. We bought the book, and it was one of the best investments we have ever made.

Many small rural communities face significant challenges. The City of Pomeroy is no exception.

According to a 2017 survey conducted by SmallBizSurvival, the top five concerns of small-town people are: (1) Downtown is dead, (2) Losing young people, (3) No one shops in town, (4) Missing out on tourism opportunities, and (5) Need new residents.

There is at least one unifying factor for most of this list. From my observation, the biggest systemic threat is related to population decline, and specifically among younger age groups. As the population in small towns declines and grows older, there is less consumer activity, causing a decline in retail business. Also, school districts with fewer students inadequately fuel the local economy. It’s a vicious cycle once it starts. The decline in retail and business activity leads to a glut of empty Main Street retail buildings, which drives down property values and eventually leads to a decreased tax base.

What is unique about Pomeroy is that we have enough employers to increase our population–we just do not have any place for Gen X and Millennials to live. Imagine new employees being hired at the hospital or the forest service or the school district, and those families finding new three-bedroom, two-bath homes on the market that are move-in ready. Consider the impact this might have on school enrollment, and the stimulus to the entrepreneurial spirit that might help revitalize Main Street.

There is one immediate hurdle that needs to be crossed, which brings us back to “13 Ways,” and specifically to Chapter 1–the water. Pomeroy has a water issue, and it is arguably a serious one.

I contacted Mr. Griffiths and he graciously gave his permission to reprint in the East Washingtonian the first chapter of his book, “Don’t Worry About the Water”, which will appear next week.


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