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Taste This Stimulus Package: Geese That Could Lay Millions Of Golden Eggs In Farmville

Forget the goose that laid the golden egg.

There are over 5,800 geese that could lay golden eggs for local merchants if retailers can hatch a plan to more effectively attract college students to their stores.

Sunny side up.

Over easy.

Expertly scrambled.

So many ways to capitalize on those golden eggs.

The variety of omelets, alone, is enough to make one's mouth water. And sales do anything but dry up.

The geese in this economic equation are students at Longwood University and Hampden-Sydney College. The Farmville Area Chamber of Commerce hosted a terrific meeting last week that focused on the amount of discretionary spending power those students possess.

Wow.

The yolk from those golden eggs can be on us.

That's the kind of egg you want all over your face and place of business.

Based on Bill Baxter's presentation, even the worst-case scenario is over $5 million a year in total combined discretionary spending power by LU and H-SC undergrads. That assumes $100 per month per student, far below the $361 national average, and the latter would indicate over $19 million in annual discretionary spending ability during the nine-month academic year by our college students.

Mr. Baxter is worth listening to and his recommendations have been incubated with reason, wisdom, and experience. Mr. Baxter is Director of Longwood's College of Business & Economics Internship Program and he is a former President and CEO of the Retail Merchants Association and of the Virginia Retail Association. When he speaks on this subject, we should listen.

He described as the “pessimistic view” the notion that LU and H-SC students have half the discretionary spending power of the average US college student, which amounts to $181 per month and more than $9 million combined among students on both campuses.

Pessimism like that is something we need much more of.

These college students, quite simply, constitute a stimulus package that all of us can agree on, and that our community needs. Either the liberal or the conservative estimates of the students' spending power have our support, and the moderate estimate gets our nomination, as well. How does the business community win this election?

Too many chefs in the kitchen isn't something to fear where these golden eggs are concerned and collaboration in the business community and between it and local government would be helpful. An ideal vehicle would be the independent downtown revitalization committee to task one of its sub-committees with working through Mr. Baxter's many recommendations and developing a plan of action to be incorporated with the committee's final resolve.

A crucial first step should include Mr. Baxter's recommendation of commissioning a survey to identify what hours of business would be most likely to attract college students and what sorts of things they want to buy. Regarding the latter, Pairet's is a good example of a Main Street business that has effectively evolved through the years, refining its product line to meet the market.

As for the shopping hours, most students don't fit the 9-5 mold and at least two or three evenings a week should prove effective. But ask the students and work together as a business community, in unison for greatest effect.

Conveniently, Mr. Baxter and LU are perfectly situated and equipped to conduct the survey of students. An obvious match.

With so many empty storefronts, this is an opportunity to find what types of businesses students would like to see fill those downtown buildings and attract more of their discretionary spending, bringing more and more students downtown to the benefit of all.

Customers, Baxter exhorted, “vote every day with the wallets. We all stand to win with a solid, well-executed plan. We'll surely continue to miss out on opportunities without one.”

Geese, like cars, honk when they pass you by.

Taking their golden eggs with them.

We want the yolk on us, yes.

The joke on us, no.

-JKW-