Toll Road – Live Here, Work Here

No one likes to commute, to sit in a line at a stop light and to spend valuable time behind the wheel. In many places an hour is the bottom end of commute times, yet people do the long commute because they can’t afford a home in the city center where home prices are high and the taxes and cost of living are high. They want more for their money including the country setting feeling and that slower lifestyle for themselves and their children.
Given the choice they would love to live and work in the same place. Too frequently there is no choice because the jobs just don’t exist in their neighborhood or the jobs that do exist do not pay a wage that can support a family and a home. Economic development is expected to do something about it but it’s not that easy. Economic development tries to be the bridge between government and private enterprise by helping to simplify the processes to bring business in our community, by offering sites in the industrial park and expediting the processes, by providing some imagination and by making connections to show what could be.
We have been fortunate in the last year with Alpha Foundations, Project Energizer and an additional company moving into our industrial park. Sadly, we have been unfortunate too with PS Art and Fred’s both closing. Monticello has shown some good signs of improvement with Mafia Pizza, La Tiendita, BBQ and Hair salon all occupying space in the renovated old motel and with REV and Parkway restaurants giving additional places for a meal and socializing. However the retail sector lags. There are several vacant store fronts in the Winn/Dixie shopping strip south of Monticello and North Jefferson Street is blighted with vacant gas stations, rundown buildings and a feeling of abandonment. Perhaps there just isn’t enough local demand – not enough customers. Local downtown development out to the wider Monticello City limits needs careful consideration. A vibrant down town where people want to be after 5 PM and on the weekend requires planning to encourage the right development while protecting and preserving our hometown feeling and its precious historical buildings.
How many of you and your friends have to travel to see family? You may be the luckier ones and only have to travel and hour or two but if you have to go to South Carolina, Ohio, Texas, California or Washington you have a very long drive or air travel. We drive the 14 hours to Dallas twice a year to see our grandchildren and they come for a couple of weeks for July 4th. We understand our children have to make their own way in life and their chosen profession and employer may force them to be far away. And for those with employable skills or degrees there just aren’t that many opportunities locally and the prospects don’t appear to be improving in the current near future. Something has to change.
The state through the Toll Road is offering the possibility of employment growth from new business development and funds for training. Concerns about too many ‘fast food’ places and unbridled strip malls are real and I share them. All of our visioning sessions have been consistent in that. Our local government has to provide strong land use planning to restrict undesired elements and to encourage development in places most amenable to our desire to preserve our way of life and prevent urban sprawl.
This is about a future where the younger generations will want to live and work. It holds the possibility for a wonderful place where our children and their children will want to stay. And most of all where they too will want to protect and preserve the slower peaceful home town way of life and the natural beauty of the county.

Phil Calandra