This week, a new Town of Leesburg committee will launch an effort to better support businesses and to nurture commercial growth.
You may have already seen the sarcastic eye-rolls from embittered veterans who served on similar committees in past decades. The typical cycle is to get a group of well-meaning business owners and residents around the table for a year or more, have them come up with a long list of ideas they are excited about, and then have the Town Council whittle away at their suggestions or ignore them altogether. They’ve resulted in more frustration than success.
Is there reason to suspect a different outcome this time? It’s too soon to tell, but there are reasons for hope.
First, this round of study begins during a period of relative prosperity. Downtown streets have never been busier—during the day and well into the evenings—and other commercial areas are showing healthy signs. The pressing task of this group is not to jumpstart a depressed market. Instead, its members will be looking to expand on the successes and to keep the economic ball rolling in a positive direction. The momentum is in their favor.
Secondly, there already appears to be a willingness to reevaluate some long-festering sore spots, parking policies and architecture controls among them. For this discussion, which advocates hope will result in both short-term policy changes and long-term strategies, no item should be off the table. Normally, business leaders are told, “this is the way we do things.” Now is the time to ask, “why do we do things this way?”
Finally, the group has a lot of new faces and is starting out with a healthy bit of optimism. Chief among them is the committee’s chief sponsor Councilman Ron Campbell. In campaigning for the seat last year, he said he came to the position largely without preconceived notions about what needed to be done, but promised to listen and consider new ideas. That is the primary task of this group.
That said, the panel’s success will hinge on participation and input from a wide representation of the community—including those who have battled fruitlessly for changes in the past. If the effort is dismissed out of the gate as a waste of time, it surely will be.
The town has remarkable opportunities at hand. This Economic Development Review Steering Committee may determine whether town leaders seize them or lose them.