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Farmville's Business Community Keeps Climbing Upward

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The Farmville Herald

When a mountain climber slips from the peak of a record climb they are simply hoping and praying to stop the fall and just hang on somewhere long enough to find a toehold, foothold, a crevice in which to wedge their fingers and begin that slow climb back to the top. This life-saving climb is not a race. All that matters is getting there.

Farmville's economy was on the mountaintop in 2007, standing atop a record year of retail sales and total dollar volume.

Mount Everest and K2 combined.

Retail sales totaled $386,805,846 in 2007.

Total dollar volume was $550,902,315.

That's loud.

The view was amazing. From those retail sales and dollar volume totals one could see a bright and shining future spreading out along, and beyond, the horizon.

Then came 2008.

A storming blast of hailing recession, the likes of which hadn't been seen since The Great Depression. Farmville's economy didn't fall from that record peak of 2007. It was clattered into, pushed by plunging national and global economies, and began sliding on the world-wide recession's icy gravity.

Not so far and not so fast, but the record retail sales of 2007 gave way to a 6.63 percent decline in 2008, followed by an additional 7.35 percent loss in altitude in 2009, with Total Dollar Volume dropping 1.69 percent and then 8.37 percent in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

The losses in community economies around the nation and the world fell much further but the decline in Farmville was substantial, nevertheless. More than $50 million was lost off the record retail sales of 2007 in just two years, with Total Dollar Volume declining by more than $54 million by the end of 2009.

But even as other economies continued their plunge, Farmville dug its ice axe into the face of the fall and slowed, then stopped, the plunge, shoved its crampons into the ice, gripped its carabiners, climbing ropes, belay devices and harness, and began the hard, vital climb back up toward the economic summit.

One small step for the entire community that will, because it reversed economic decline, one day be seen to have had the culminating effect of a giant leap.

The decline ended in 2010. Retail sales showed a 2.42 percent gain, with Total Dollar Volume rising by 11.46 percent. And we saw that those ascending steps back up the mountain were taken further last year, with a 2.38 percent retail sales gain in 2011, sustaining and building upon the vital progress of 2010. Total Dollar Volume did, it must be noted, decline by 6.73 percent last year-the song of success is not always a sustained unbroken note-but it still represents a $20 million increase over 2009, and retail sales generally saw gains across Farmville's economy.

Farmville's economy continues climbing back toward the mountaintop. There is new investment, new businesses, new construction staking its life on this community, millions of dollars being bet on Farmville's future, individuals trusting their own future, linking it inextricably with the fate of this community.

That's the truest endorsement any economy can receive-people, who could invest anywhere, choosing to believe in one particular place. In this particular case, it is this particular place.

A risk that is not unwisely taken. But we can do more. We can create more jobs, more employers, greater home-grown entrepreneurship. We can be our own bootstraps.

The mountaintop has not been swept into the sea by the so-called Great Recession. Those highlands remain attainable, with enough room to lift the quality of life of all who live and work here. And the most vital component is empowering the next generation to reach its fullest potential-through the best possible public school system-because their potential will become this community's universe. If we rise together, like mountain climbers linked with one another, our fortunes dependent on each other to achieve the ultimate summit, then the day will come when this community stands side by side on that great height.

And that view will be the most amazing one of all.

-JKW-