Photo Courtesy: The Crowe Law Office
Submitted by Yelm Business Assn. Executive Director Dan Crowe
Also posted: Thursday, April 9, 2015 in the Nisqually Valley News.
By Daniel W. Crowe
A few weeks ago, I had the honor of moderating Yelm’s first town hall meeting in many, many years.
The event was hosted by the Yelm Business Association, and the intent was to gather information so that we can work together as a community and collaborate with the city of Yelm for much-needed changes in our community. The Yelm Business Association was formed because many local businesses felt that the concerns of the community, especially the business community, have not been heard by the city.
Since its formation, the Yelm Business Association has grown significantly and now represents many locally owned businesses. We have formed committees dedicated to the advancement, the beautification and cultural identity of Yelm, and we are in the process of forming a citizen’s advisory committee so that all voices may be heard.
The meeting went extremely well. Over 60 people showed up at the Yelm Middle School and aired their concerns and their visions for the future of the city. The optimistic view that many people took of the future of our community was inspiring.
Many envisioned a community that was friendly to our youth and our military families, with safer schools, and adequate budgeting for the police force. People spoke of a community with child- and family-friendly parks and events, a community that promotes the arts. Many others stressed the importance of Yelm’s agricultural history and its influence on our cultural identity. People expressed surprise that the Yelm Farmers Market was located outside of the city, and that we do not have more shops selling the produce of our local farmers and artisans.
I was especially happy to hear the overwhelming support for locally owned and operated businesses and the realization that those are the businesses that build our tax base, drive employment and create a sense of community and cultural identity for our city.
As the discussion turned to the issues that face the community today, people became much less optimistic. Many expressed concerns at the poor impression our community is making on others, with ramshackle, dilapidated buildings on Yelm Avenue, a business core that is dying of neglect, and with the city’s apparent focus on courting big box stores and large chain stores and restaurants, to the detriment of smaller, locally owned businesses. Yelm was described as a drive-through town, with no incentive for people to stop, except perhaps to escape the horrible traffic.
The YBA now has an obligation to act. We will continue to try to communicate with the city of Yelm in a meaningful way. The information we gathered, and the ideas and visions that we heard, need to be communicated to the city and to the mayor, if we are to grow together as a community.
To that end, we will deliver an open letter to all of the councilors and to the mayor. We will also work to develop a long term partnership between local businesses and the city. Finally, we will work on developing a strong business core, beautifying our city and holding fun, relevant events that bring people from the surrounding areas into the city.
Dreams require action to become realities. We recognize that, and we hope to see you at our next town hall meeting in June.
Daniel W. Crowe owns The Crowe Law Office in Yelm.