A Look Into The Bluffton Business Bonanza

by Average Joe   At a time when small town business districts are dying in droves, Bluffton’s business district is this phenomenal muscular economic anomaly.  Think about it…
   A town of 3,875 people support (Count ‘em!) seven downtown restaurants, two hardware stores, two “dollar stores” (modern version of general store), a pharmacy, a community grocery store, a busy bicycle shop, four car mechanic shops, a sporting goods store, antique/re-sale stores, and on …
   This phenomenon is not lost on Bluffton University Economics Professor Jonathan Andreas.  He said he’s actually quite blown away by it.
   There are towns of 4,000 people all over America now that, at best, have one restaurant and maybe a bank, period, he said.
   This is, in big part, because of a thing in economics parlance called centralism.
   You see in the “old days,” almost all the small towns in America were self-contained with stores providing all the “stuff of life” for their residents.  Then came Henry Ford’s Model T, the first affordable automobile for the “average Joe” (no relation, wink).
   Now with this new “mechanical horse power,” the average Joe could go farther.
   Concurrently, a business guy with his eye on making more money said, “Hey, if I have a bigger store with more volume, I can sell stuff at cheaper prices.  And in the long run, this will mean more money for me because of all the increased volume.”
   Then this guy thought, because of increased consumer mobility, it would be good to put the store in a “central” location among, say, five small towns.  Read centralism.
   He did.
   And now, years later on the far end of this continuum we have: Walmart, Lowe’s, Target. Studies show that within two years after a Walmart goes in, for instance, 40 percent of businesses in, say, that five town radius, die.  And many of the others experience, well, slower deaths.
   Not Bluffton.
   For one, Bluffton is just far enough away on the periphery of both the Findlay and Lima “big box store” radius, so to speak, that from a convenience standpoint, it’s easier for locals to “shop Bluffton.”  But, according to Professor Andreas, there’s an even more “sociologically” compelling reason.
   He said many people here have been invested in keeping the business community as vibrant as possible because, well, that’s part of where “community” happens.  You see, the professor pointed out that shopping downtown is often more than about the one dimensional pursuit of: getting stuff.
   It’s where community members intersect with each other talking, inevitably, about the “stuff” of life.  Familiarity increases, bonding is deeper and the quality of life is enhanced.

See the full story in the Bluffton News