Editorial: Where’s the love for the other businesses

Published 6:01 pm Saturday, January 10, 2015

It’s time for Austin to shift its focus to businesses not named Target.

We commend the efforts of the volunteers behind the “Save the Austin, MN Target from closing” Facebook page and subsequent community campaign. However, it’s time that volunteers and concerned Austin residents spread the love to other retailers, especially those still in the community.

When Target announced last year that Austin’s store would be one of 11 Targets to close Feb. 1, it incited a wave of reaction. Volunteers organized an online campaign, petitions, a public meeting and reached out to company leaders.

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Despite the group’s efforts, Target is still closing, which isn’t much of a surprise. It wasn’t personal, Austin. It was a business decision, and community action is unlikely to change business decisions — only sales and performance will.

We support Austin residents speaking out for a cause. In a November editorial, we said the volunteers behind the “Save Austin, Minnesota Target” were “showing the good things that can happen when people in the community come together.” Now those efforts need to be directed at other businesses.

Like every other community, several businesses close and open each year in Austin. But where was this type of community response when other businesses closed? The public didn’t react the same way when several Oak Park Mall businesses were displaced by the pending deal for Hy-Vee to build a new grocery store — partially because many people see the deal as a positive. Most mall tenants had to find new homes — often an expensive process — a few moved to Albert Lea, and Visionworks and GNC closed. The community didn’t react the same way when Norm and Marlene Blaser, a highly involved Austin couple, announced plans to close Quiznos to retire and unsuccessfully tried to sell the business. In comparison to a corporation like Target and its 1,800 stores in the U.S., community efforts would have stood a stronger chance of saving the small businesses that closed in Austin in 2014.

What is different about Target? For starters, many Target shoppers we know are extremely loyal and dedicated to the store. Plus, Target is a Minnesota company. Such box stores are also status symbols for communities. After checking out a town’s population, the next thing many people do when assessing a town is to look at what stores — especially large retailers — the town offers. Losing Target is a bit like a demotion in Austin’s status.

We applaud the folks behind the save Target campaign. Along with familiar faces from Vision 2020 and the Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, the campaign attracted new blood, which is always good. Now we encourage them to put similar energy into promoting other Austin businesses.

These volunteers are planning a sendoff for Target’s roughly 80 employees, which is nice to see. However, why limit it to Target? Why not include the other businesses that closed experienced significant change in 2014? And why not thank the ones still here?