New Castle News

February 28, 2013

Our Opinion: ‘Cash mob’ concept is commendable volunteer effort

By Staff
CNHI

NEW CASTLE — Will a $20 purchase save downtown New Castle?

Of course not. But as the old saying goes, it’s the thought that counts.

And in its own way, an effort to have people commit to spending $20 in the downtown is a way to get residents to think about commerce in the city.

We refer to something called a “cash mob” being organized by New Visions for Lawrence County.

Basically, people are being asked to gather at 11 a.m. Saturday at Washington Centre downtown. There, they will be given the name of a downtown merchant and asked to spend $20 at the business.

The fundamental idea is to create foot traffic in the downtown and encourage shopping. Theoretically, if people can develop a habit of downtown shopping, they are more likely to patronize downtown businesses.

The New Visions organization is a nonprofit effort that is working on multiple fronts to improve New Castle and the surrounding area. These range from targeting crime and blight to encouraging more cultural activities in the city.

And when it comes to the city, the downtown is a focal point. A common complaint when it comes to shopping in the downtown is that there are no stores there to patronize. But that’s not true; downtown businesses do exist.

Sadly, many storefronts are empty. And these tend to draw the most attention. But some shoppers may find that merchants operating in this climate have to work harder to survive.

The plan of New Visions is to have a cash mob on a monthly basis as a means of promoting the downtown.

We don’t know how many people will respond to the cash mob proposal, or whether it will become a mainstay in the downtown. We do know that in the struggle to find ways to restore vitality to the downtown, New Castle needs all the constructive help it can get.

And from our perspective, it is crucial to find ways to get people simply to go downtown. In recent years, one of the biggest successes in that regard is the Saturday morning farmers market in the summer and fall along East Street. This is an activity that not only gets people downtown, but gets them out of their cars.

Maybe most farmers market visitors buy some vegetables and move on. But we wouldn’t be surprised if a few of them take the opportunity to engage in other activities and shopping while in the downtown. Simply put, there is no chance a consumer will do anything in terms of spending money in the downtown if he or she doesn’t first go there.

The volunteers associated with New Visions have a variety of activities in mind in terms of beautifying and engaging the downtown. These efforts are indeed commendable.