Editor’s note: This column is written by a resident of Piqua and it does not reflect the views of the Piqua Daily Call and its staff. This is a contributed column provided by the writer to the newspaper for printing on the Opinion page.
Of all the things I have written about, the most disturbing fact is that we have had negative population growth for some time. This is well-documented. I found out about it two years ago when I was at the Dayton Chamber of Commerce. They had a graphical display clearly depicting Piqua as one of few communities (maybe the only) with negative population growth since 2000 in the Greater Dayton area.
This clearly means that not only can’t we attract a positive flow of newcomers, we can’t even persuade our own children to stay here. How in the world do you think we are going to attract young professionals? Do you realize the size of the attraction we would have to build?
I’ll use my own four kids, so I can speak from personal experience. After graduating from college, two of my boys, at two different times, headed to Chicago and got apartments across from Wrigley Field. From there, one bought a house within 15 minutes, by train, to downtown Chicago. Chicago has got to be one of the greatest cities in the world.
The other one moved to the Short North area in Columbus. Downtown Columbus is a free bus ride 10 minutes one way. Ohio State football is 15 minutes the other way. This area has a high concentration of high school graduates living there from Piqua.
My other son, after graduating from college, moved to an apartment two minutes’ walking distance from The Greene in Beavercreek. If you’re not familiar with The Greene, it is a planned community of upscale bars and restaurants with some of the nicest specialty retail shopping in the world. This concept has been built all over the country.
My daughter is a CPA. She married her high school sweetheart. Her family lives in Piqua and she is willing to make the hourlong drive each day to Dayton where her firm is located. She sees the same attraction that her mom and I saw when we decided to make Piqua our home. It is a wonderful and safe place to raise a family.
This young professional concept, which is the basis for our whole economic development policy, is flawed. You don’t need to read books about the Rust Belt and go to cute little seminars about economic development to figure that out. Try common sense. Imagine what we would have to build on the river banks of the Great Miami to compete. Need I say more?
Quit telling me I am pessimistic about Piqua. I am not. I am pessimistic about a flawed economic development strategy that has very little chance of working.
I am pessimistic about an apathetic voting community who is in danger of giving Piqua’s way of life over to one in which we think government grants and subsidized local restaurants are our future. That’s not the Piqua I know. It’s not the Piqua I was raised in.
The Piqua I know is a place where the young Sam Jacksons of the world came come and build world class factories. The Piqua I know is a place where young entrepreneurs like Benny Scott can come and pursue dreams. The Piqua I know is a place where people like my father, with an eighth grade education, can come to and start businesses out of their garages on the wrong side of the tracks.
I believe there is an entrepreneurial spirit in this town that could set the world on fire. Just mention names like Knupp, Finkes, Fry, Alexander, Hartzell, Hemm, Sever, Sherry and on and on and on. I have had businesses in Piqua, Sidney and Troy. Piqua is the diamond in the rough. It is the shining city on the hill. It is the rose between two thorns.
I have written seven articles now that present two very different ways of life in this small city — two different ways to reach a destiny. I lost my reputation long ago — thank God. Don’t put words into my mouth. If you want to know what I’ve said, read it. It’s out there.
Please don’t distort what I’ve said. My greatest mentor told me you will know the truth when you see it and the truth will make you free. He also told me, you choose. He said I have set the choices before you. I will not make you go one way or the other. He said choose wisely.
As a community, this is what we have to do. Choose wisely.
Bill Jaqua has resided for six decades and is a member of a fourth-generation family in Piqua.