Editorial: Every choice — good or bad — can cause a ripple effect

Published 10:52 pm Wednesday, September 12, 2018

It’s not always immediately clear what long-term effects business decisions can have on a community.

Sometimes it takes months or even years for the full effects to be seen, but like it or not, the consequences — good or bad — always come.

On Wednesday, Sterling Pharmacy President Sam Ewing stated in a letter to pharmacy patients that the longtime Albert Lea business would be closing. Ewing stated one of the main reasons the pharmacy is closing is because of the decision by Mayo Clinic Health System in Albert Lea and Austin to transition many inpatient services out of Albert Lea. That, along with the impact of the health care reimbursement system, brought significant financial challenges to the pharmacy, leading to the closure. This is one ripple from Mayo Clinic Health System’s decision announced 15 months ago, and it is surely not going to be the only one.

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On the other side this week, the community saw a ripple from a separate decision when Mason City Clinic announced it would bring urology care to Albert Lea one day a week. Urology services, though not part of the health system’s transition announced last year, have been in Austin for two years after the previous urologist who covered Albert Lea and Austin retired.

Herberger’s, another longtime Albert Lea business, closed its doors last month. That was the result of a company-wide bankruptcy, though city leaders and mall owners have stated the local store performed well. The corporate decision had ripple effects across the country – the immediate ones being empty stores in shopping centers and people who are now without jobs.

When services leave our community — whether they are medical or retail services — it has the potential to have a profound impact, no matter what the cause was for the decision to be made.

Sometimes the ripples are small and only last for a short while. Other times, the ripples continue for years, affecting many.

The question now is what is being done to counter those negative ripples and to instead turn these into positive ones?

We think the city is headed in the right direction by contracting with Retail Strategies LLC earlier this year to promote our community and its retail opportunities. The firm is completing a recruitment plan for the city that is expected to be completed by the middle of this month and will spread the word about opportunities available in Albert Lea at two major retail trade shows each year. It is required to have a minimum of 30 recruitment contacts a year.

According to City Manager Chad Adams, The Carrington Co., owner of Northbridge Mall, has also conducted a third-party independent study on the strengths of the Albert Lea market and why the city is a better site to locate. It will use the results of its study, along with the report from Retail Strategies, to market the mall to potential companies looking to open a new location.

These are little steps in the right direction, but we know that more must be done to bring about major change. We encourage the business community and residents to come together to think of other ways to recruit businesses to town.

Even the comments we make online and out in the community can have a ripple effect.

What ripples will you cause?