Politicians helped improve our area

After reading the Sunday editorial in the June 10 Mirror about the positive things happening along the Ebensburg corridor on U.S. Route 22, I started to reflect upon what has happened over the years in the Altoona area.

I would like the readers to know that I was in the retail business most of my life, and I feel that I have a lot of insight into what is happening in today’s retail world.

Some people want you to believe that our area is a dying place and not a great place to live. I beg to differ.

A few years back, we had more power in the state than Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. We had a federal representative who was head of the House Transportation Committee and our state senator was ProTem of the Senate of Pennsylvania.

What did that mean to our area?

Whether you liked or disliked our elected political officials, they helped this area benefit in many ways. Look at I-99. Take a look at the different employers from Bedford to State College who relocated their businesses where there was easy accessibility to major highways.

Look at our Convention Center, our beautiful Double-A ballpark and our booming industrial parks.

As more and more people shopped in our area, it attracted more restaurants that are full on Friday and Saturday evenings. Many say low-paying jobs were added, but what about the 18-20 percent tips or those retail workers who are on commission?

Twenty years ago, when I went to retail conferences, the general consensus was that this country was over-stored. No matter what major city, they all looked alike with the same chain stores and same chain restaurants.

As new retailers opened in the Altoona area, it forced the old retailers such as Value City, Town & Country and Masons out of business. Remember Busy Beaver? In Altoona, they were replaced by Lowe’s, WalMart, Target and others.

Online shopping has been another major factor in the retail trade. Online now makes up approximately 18 percent of retail sales today and basically did not exist 15 years ago. Many other stores that are now in financial trouble did not keep up with the way that retail trade is currently conducted.

How has Altoona retail continued to thrive?

As smaller towns have lost their shoe stores, clothing stores and other retailers, our leaders have taken advantage of their loss. New highways made it easier for the pilgrimage of out-of-town shoppers and the attraction of new businesses.

Large retail chains do many studies before locating in an area. Look around and see how many national chains have opened in our area in the last 10 years. Read the statistics presented by ExploreAltoona on money that has been brought into Blair County from transportation, food and beverage and retail.

Additionally, they showed a 13 percent increase in 2017 for hotel demand.

Not only have many national chain stores made it in Altoona, but also many small independent retailers have thrived here.

Altoona has become the retail mecca of central Pennsylvania.

Simply drive around the area and see what is happening in our area, and you will see progress.

Yes, this area has problems, like most areas of the country, but the good outweighs the bad.

You can’t go to bed every night thinking of only things that are negative.

If so, you will wake up feeling negative. Think positively for a bright future, whether that includes new schools or new businesses.

Byron Lasser