EDITORIAL: Economic development a priority

Many residents of the shire take great pride, or at least a keen interest, in Cooma's town centre. Often, in conversation, people will mention three aspects which are (in no particular order) the state of the footpaths and the general look and feel of the CBD, the proliferation of coffee shops and eating houses, and the number of empty shops.

The first of these is the responsibility of the council, the other two are not, and nor should they be. If small business people wish to open a coffee shop, and they think the passing traffic combined with local trade will pay their bills, then good luck to them. Their existence and prosperity adds to the diversity of Cooma life in addition to providing employment. It is not for any council or authority to proscribe how many coffee shops, or supermarkets, or petrol stations, or dress shops, or anything else, the town should have. The "market" will decide these things.

In relation to the empty shops, it is a perhaps a matter of concern when long established businesses close, and especially when there appears to be a few of them closing at the same time. But, again, this is the function of the "market" and people's individual plans.

There is a role here, though, for councils to actively encourage new businesses to come to Cooma, to increase employment, and add to the population, which is virtually stagnant. Some councils have economic development officers dedicated solely to the task, and it is something the incoming shire council might put on its agenda.

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