Business owners move to shape future of Highland

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A citizen driven public forum was held at the Artisan Restaurant in Highland June 6. The purpose of the forum was for business owners in the City of Highland to come together to voice their grievances and attempt to work toward finding solutions to their current problems.

Just fewer than 50 business owners attended the meeting that lasted into the night. Each individual was able to voice their concerns about the declining local economy and direction the city was headed if things don’t change.

According to John Ivey, an organizer for the meeting, he said the results were so positive there will be future meetings held the third Tuesday of each month.

“It turned out the best way it possibly could have. We have to change the infrastructure of the city before we can go forward with any growth,” Ivey said. “That’s the situation we’re working on and hopefully we can come up with a solution. The main thing about the meeting is that it’s real easy to sit elsewhere and point fingers and say this or this needs to be fixed, and everybody says ‘they’ need to fix it but ‘they’ is us. If we don’t fix it, it’s not going to be fixed.”

Ivey mentioned the meeting was not solely attended by business owners, but representation from the city government such as several council members and the city mayor were also present.

“Everybody got to kind of rip the band-aid off [so to speak] and everybody was talking and was social by the time it was over and the main thing is, if we want Highland to survive and our children to stay and for me to retire here, something’s got to change,” Ivey said. “This had to come together before we could move forward. There were 49 people at this first meeting.”

The collective voice present at the meeting was in agreement that the city’s infrastructure in its current state prevents growth. Although members of the group hope to work together for improvements, the reality is the existing infrastructure cannot support or sustain growth.

“When I graduated high school in 1992, we had more businesses than we do now. I had a show of hands and in 2005, everybody was making more money than they are now,” Ivey said. “We’ve lost businesses and when ALCO went out we had two empty buildings and now there are seven. My main thing was, instead of saying how not to do something, we need to figure out how to [make it happen]. We all have to work together and if we don’t stand up and fight for our community, nobody else is going to. We have no place for our children to work and being successful in Sharp County is tough.”

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