Heart beats on: Downtown Danville future still bright despite business closures

By NICK WADE

Heart of Danville

Over the last few weeks, we have either seen or heard the announcements of five businesses closing downtown.

Since these announcements, I have heard from various people that this is a sign that downtown Danville is dying, or that the community does not support small businesses. I do not agree with these sentiments.

Wilma Brown and The Advocate-Messenger have both done a great job discussing the closures. In the Friday, July 28, edition of The Advocate-Messenger, Brown is quoted as saying “…it’s just a coincidence.”

In the Tuesday, Aug. 1, “Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down,” the Advocate reported data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The referenced statistics include that “about one in five small businesses fail in the first year” and “the rates of small business failure have been steady … failure rates didn’t change all that much.”

While it is sad that we have lost several great downtown Danville establishments, the positive is that the closures are unrelated and are not indicative of an unhealthy business environment in downtown.

You may be asking yourself, “what is the Heart of Danville doing to help downtown?” This question has no easy answer. In fact, the National Main Street Center released a 226-page book about revitalizing Main Street, and in all my training, it is stressed that revitalization is not an easy process.

There is no “one size fits all” tactic for revitalization and economic development is not quick. Over the next few months, we plan to start working on a comprehensive vision for downtown. But what does that mean?

When we ask people what they would like for downtown, we often hear something along the lines of “We should try to be more like X.” The problem is we are not X. We are Danville. We are the city of firsts. We are historically bold. Why should we try to be like another community when we can create the vision for our downtown and determine where we want to be in five to 10 years?

The work of downtown revitalization does not fall on any one group fully; we are all responsible for downtown. We, the citizens of Danville-Boyle County, can continue to support our favorite small businesses. If you are unfamiliar with the downtown business options available to you, I encourage you to take a moment and explore our website or download Distrx, our new mobile app.

Downtown is more than the people who work downtown and the businesses that occupy the buildings; it is also about the people who live and enjoy downtown. That is why the Heart of Danville is creating the “I heart downtown Danville” campaign. We need your help telling the story of why downtown Danville is important, and why you “heart” downtown Danville.

Email us at info@downtowndanville.com and tell us why you love downtown, what your favorite business is and why, or why Main Street matters to you.

Nick Wade is the executive director of Heart of Danville, the Main Street program promoting downtown Danville.