NEW GLASGOW – The development of big box stores in the county will benefit smaller downtown areas, says the interim co-ordinator of the New Glasgow Downtown Development Commission.
Ray Merriam, who helped develop the Truro Power Centre, said people shouldn’t worry about larger department style stores moving and taking something away from smaller downtown businesses.
“I’ve seen it happen in other places where these larger stores do business,” he said. “Sure the smaller retailer may see a change in their sales in the first year, but after this things level off. These bigger stores bring people to the area and smaller retailers and businesses can take advantage of this.”
Merriam said downtown New Glasgow has a lot going for it with its retail shops, cafes, restaurants, farmers market and riverfront, but there’s always room for more business opportunities. He recently surveyed all the business owners in downtown New Glasgow asking what type of businesses they would like to see in the area and has more strategies planned for the near future.
“I want to help create a vibrant downtown,” he said. “Fifty years ago, downtowns all over North America were very vibrant places where people lived, worked and shopped. Then due to suburban sprawling, people began moving to the suburbs and the malls.”
He said people are now shifting towards living in urban downtown areas where amenities are close by.
“This demographic prefer downtown living because they can walk or bike to everything,” he said. “By creating renovated liveable spaces like lofts, apartments in the vacant upper floors with rooftop terraces as green spaces and even loft-style new construction condos right in the downtown core, you end up with a mixed use of commercial, retail and residential properties.”
He said downtown New Glasgow already has a nice mix of retail and professional services and with the town’s revitalization project, he believes new businesses will be easily attracted to the area with the right marketing.
“When I see an empty building, store front or an empty upper floor, I only see opportunities and possibilities for potential growth,” Merriam said. “It’s my professional opinion that downtown New Glasgow already has most of the right ingredients now, we just need to attract some new businesses, developers and investors who can catch the vision for residential.”
Merriam’s extensive knowledge on the subject comes from working as a municipal councillor in Colchester, serving on community boards and creating and operating more than 25 business ventures. He has received more than 14 various awards for his professional and community work including a Top 50 CEO Award.
He said the highlight of his marketing and business development consulting career was being hired by the Millbrook First Nation Economic Development Corporation in 2001 to assist with the development of its 300-acre Truro Power Centre Project.
“It wasn’t always rosy for me in business,” he said. “I know what it’s like to work long hours and struggle to make ends meet when you are running a business and sometimes it’s not easy but it can be rewarding. My entrepreneurial experience has helped me have a good understanding of what takes place with the business community.”