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August 18, 2022

Chains a mistake for the downtown

How many mistakes does it take for a community to finally fail
or go bankrupt? Or perhaps the better question would be, what’s the
fastest way to lose the character or charm of a small
How many mistakes does it take for a community to finally fail or go bankrupt? Or perhaps the better question would be, what’s the fastest way to lose the character or charm of a small community?

The answer to both questions is very simple. Not many. A few mistakes compounded by uniformed or misinformed leaders over a few years will lead to the demise of any community.

It seems every time a mistake is made in our community, the leadership tries to cover it up or make it worse. A case in point is how the county now admits to being in the hole by over $4 million, which is probably a conservative estimate. I would say the true number is closer to $6 million and growing rapidly.

During the campaign season, the Board of Supervisors claimed they should all be re-elected because they had the prowess to balance their budget unlike the city of Hollister. When I pointed out that they were in deep financial trouble, they called me a liar. Now, only a few months after the election, they say that being in the red by $4 million is not that bad and it could have been worse had it not been for their great financial and leadership skills.

At the city level, things have gone from bad to worse and the hole keeps getting deeper. The solution recommended city leaders – laying off most of the city staff and bringing in Home Depot, Denny’s and Applebee’s to save us from financial ruin – would be laughable if it were only a joke. But, unfortunately, it’s not a joke. It’s the real thing.

What’s wrong with these chains coming into our community? Nothing on the surface, but dig a little deeper and what you’ll find is that these chain stores will do nothing to help our local economy. First, all profits by these companies are quickly shipped off to headquarters, which, the last time I checked, were not in Hollister. So the money earned here will be used to make some other community prosperous. Second, unlike the Home Depots in Gilroy and Salinas, which depend on commuters passing by on a major highway, a Hollister Home Depot will be supported almost exclusively by Hollister residents.

So what’s the problem with that you ask? The problem is the pool of money that would have been spent at McKinnon lumber, Ace Hardware and at True Value Hardware, all locally owned enterprises, would be siphoned away to the headquarters of Home Depot. The overall effect will be the same tax base, but an overall net loss in revenue to the community because profits will not be reinvested locally.

I believe in a free market where businesses compete on a level playing field. At times, I visit Home Depot. But to know that the city is trying to recruit mega-corporations that spend millions to drive out small business owners is just not right.

One of the many businesses this community could lose is McKinnon Lumber, which has been in the same location for over 100 years. How many communities can claim that kind of history? McKinnon lumber wouldn’t lose business because of their prices, which are lower than Home Depot’s, but because Home Depot will spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to make sure there is no competition.

If our leaders want us to be just another suburb of San Jose, then build tens of thousands of houses and the big chains will be here anyway.

A year ago, I was at a general plan meeting when a meeting leader suggested that the way to save downtown was to bring in a Lyon’s restaurant because, in his view, there weren’t any restaurants in the downtown area. I quickly stood up and explained that there were actually about 15 restaurants in the downtown area, but since most of our residents work out of town, they have no time to spend their money in town. The key, I said, is to bring jobs to our community and success would follow. I also reiterated something a well-known and respected urban planner told me. “Whatever you do, make sure your city leaders don’t make the mistake of thinking they’re going to solve their problems by trying to bring in more retail; all that will do is create more vacancies down the street. What your city has to do is bring something to downtown that will encourage foot traffic and tourism. Your town has what most towns dream about, so don’t let your leaders blow it with the 400 block.”

The key to our future is having leaders that can see the big picture, who understand planning, finance and business rather than electing those that have no experience in the real world, but claim to be doing what’s best for the community. After all, would you hire someone to run your $30 million company with no education or proven track record of success? Oh, when will we learn.

Ignacio Velazquez can be reached at [email protected]

Staff Report
A staff member edited this provided article.

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