Compared to many other country towns, Cooma should be well placed to ride out any economic downturn. As we are frequently reminded, we are only an hour from the national capital, an hour from the coast and an hour from the snowfields. In addition, we are only a relatively short distance from Sydney; with the combined populations of Canberra and Sydney and our proximity to natural tourist attractions, we are certainly in a better position, theoretically, than those towns out west. Further, the tourism experts, as reported in today's Express, report good summer tourist traffic.
So why are there so many empty shops in town, with expectations of more to come? The situation has caused the council under mayor Dean Lynch to call a public meeting (also reported in today's Express) to explain what is to happen under the council's economic development plan, assuming the council can allocate sufficient funding to itself or perhaps attract/obtain money from elsewhere. It is time for action, he says, to tackle the problem.
We have stopped short of calling it a 'crisis' meeting or even an 'emergency' meeting, but there is certainly growing concern in the community at the state of the central business district (CBD). The council is putting considerable resources into upgrading the CBD, giving it a fresh look with enhanced amenities, and it is re-branding the town itself to present a more modern image that will be eye-catching and memorable.
The council's comprehensive economic development plan, compiled after lengthy and careful consideration by an expert and experienced task force, is timely, as is Cr Lynch's intention of calling a public meeting. He and the council are being pro-active. Business, through the Chamber of Commerce, and other community organisations, might well use their considerable resources and expertise to join forces in action to reverse the trend of shop closures and lift Cooma's prospects as well as the mood of the residents.