Last weekend, The Wife and I made a trip over to Vicksburg just to get away for a couple of days. We had a great time, but there were a couple of surprises.
Wandering downtown on a beautiful Saturday, we walked up on a local chapter of Occupy Wall Street standing on a corner on Washington Street. Occupy Wall Street? In Vicksburg? Really?
There were three of them, which doesn’t sound like many. But, the Jackson chapter of Occupy Wall Street that has been in Smith Park around the clock for weeks now can barely scratch up that many.
The Vicksburg group was more engaging than their peers in Jackson. Of all the times walking in and out of the MBJ, which is directly across from Smith Park, I’ve never had a Jackson Occupier as much as acknowledge my existence.
Still, the Vicksburg group’s “recruiting efforts” were weak by my estimation. One woman, who greeted us with a warm smile, was preoccupied (pun intended) with getting her sign crafted. One man had his sign — it said “Revolution” with the “e” printed backwards — but he was busy with his cell phone and only nodded toward us.
The other fellow was on post with a nice sign and a winning personality. He said “hello” and “great day.” Unfortunately, he was wearing a Halloween mask, which I founded disconcerting.
So, we just kept on walking.
The other surprise was encountered at the same time. Downtown Vicksburg is struggling. Vacant storefronts are common, and many of the downtown stores had already closed by early afternoon or were only opened on weekdays.
Vacant/closed retail property? In tourist-rich Vicksburg? Really?
While the megadeals such as Toyota get the ink, it is small businesses that create the majority of jobs and put money in people’s (consumers’) pockets. Thus, downtowns can be an excellent barometer of economic health.
It’s official — downtown Vicksburg, like every other community in America, is ailing. It’s a troubling sign of the times.
What Vicksburg needs is a vibrant downtown with sidewalks full of consumers. The last thing it needs is an element making visitors feel uncomfortable.
It’s a classic. No other group has a more vested interest in seeing the economy swing around than the Occupiers, yet their actions often seem detrimental to the very things they want. Don’t like big business? Fine. But, occupying downtown Vicksburg affects mom-and-pops, which are already struggling to meet the competition from big-box retailers.
I can make a strong case that the Vicksburg chapter of Occupy Wall Street is actually aiding big business, the “greedy monsters” that the movement says is sucking the financial life out of American consumers.
The recent reversal by U.S. banks on debit card fees proves the average voice counts. Consumers were displeased, showed it, and the heaviest-hitters in the financial world tucked tail and ran.
Occupy Wall Street has no coherent message, no consensus, and in their flailing around seem to hurt more than help.
Next time I go to Vicksburg, I hope the Occupiers are not standing on the corner, but rather are gainfully employed in a new downtown store. Now, that would be progress.