APPALACHIA — Vice Mayor Chase Christian wants to have a community-wide meeting focused on marketing the town to businesses and families.
He brought up the idea at town council’s May 16 meeting.
“I’ve spoken with a lot of leaders throughout the different communities, council members, residents and people outside of Appalachia that care about the town,” Christian said. “We want to get together and come up with a strategic marketing plan for Appalachia.”
Christian continued, “We can’t just sit back and hope that a power plant is going to come or that businesses are going to rush into Appalachia when something pops up.”
Christian asserted that Save-A-Lot, the town’s only grocery store, will be closed by July 1 due to company-wide financial troubles. “The current property owner has no one to come in after they’re gone,” he said. “The town government will lose $5,600 a year once the store shuts down.”
During a phone conversation Monday, Christian explained that the marketing idea is still in the early stages. He noted that different town committees such as Moving Appalachia Forward and Appalachia Special Projects have been trying to work on the issue as well. “Why don’t we just combine them all and make one big community effort?” asked Christian.
He thinks that the town has a lot of business potential. “There is no competition here,” he stated. “It’s a good area to start a small restaurant. No big chains, just mom and pop, where you can get a home cooked meal.”
Other businesses that Christian thinks would be a good idea would be stores geared toward outdoor recreation. “We don’t need hunting because most of the land is leased, but fishing. I think people would enjoy having a fishing store nearby. We need to promote Keokee Lake and the Powell River.”
Even with all the potential, the town struggles to gain business. “We need to maintain the business we have and gain other businesses,” Christian said. “We can’t maintain on water bills and residential taxes alone. We can’t keep taxing our residents.”
The main problem, according to Christian, is downtown. “Our biggest eyesore is Main Street. All of it is privately owned. Many of these people don’t have a desire to do anything with it. They definitely aren’t going to invest in it and they’re not going to promote Appalachia.”
Christian thinks that the town could offer property owners tax incentives for allowing businesses to move in. He also proposes offering free or reduced rent to businesses for a period of time in exchange for much-needed maintenance.
Business isn’t the only area of concern. “We’d like to see young people, 20- to 40-year-olds with children,” said Christian. “Without children, we don’t have a future.”
Christian said stricter property ordinances, attached with fines, can motivate some of the residential property owners to clean up their properties and help attract middle class families.
At this time, the marketing committee does not have any officials. “I think the spokesperson should be business minded and not politically oriented,” Christian said. “It shouldn’t be someone from council, including myself.
“Right now we just want to get something down on paper. How are we going to promote ourselves? We need to have something to promote.”
The first meeting will take place on Saturday, May 25 at 11 a.m. at the Appalachia town hall.