SEP. 26, 2016 • BY JON HURST
When corporate jobs leave the state for lower cost locales, it is front page news. If a hospital seeks to close a facility with empty beds, picket lines go up and politicians go on attack. If a hot new technology firm offers to locate a handful of jobs in exchange for tax breaks, the government welcome mat is rolled out.
Unfortunately, when a store or restaurant goes dark, little notice is taken except by the former customers and employees.

Consumers, elected officials, community leaders all talk about the importance of supporting small businesses and maintaining our historic, vibrant Main Streets. Yet what are they doing when it comes to really protecting, promoting and preserving local stores, and the delicate local shopping environments in which they operate? In a period of severe competitive pressures from mobile commerce growth, can we say that our government officials at the federal, state and local levels have really backed up their Main Street rhetoric with action? And are consumers really putting their money where it counts in order to keep those stores, restaurants and jobs in their towns?

We are all guilty of not always backing up vocal support of local stores with our dollars and our actions. The Retailers Association of Massachusetts decided that in these times of consumer spending transitions, new commercial developments, and the public policy focus on certain sectors such as the innovation economy, it is time to put a spotlight on store closures, job losses, and bad public policy decisions. Whether it be tax policy or labor mandates, many government policies unfortunately put our local stores at a severe competitive and cost disadvantage, and that discrimination has no place in the days of the smartphone.

DarkStoreFrontsMA.com is intended to highlight what is happening across the Commonwealth on the Main Streets, in the strip malls, and regional malls in our communities. When the stores go dark, the jobs disappear, as does commercial property tax revenues, community investment, and an important part of our community history and livability.

We urge you to join us in this new and important campaign by sharing pictures of closed store fronts in your community. Include the location and any background you may have of the site. Follow us on Twitter and on Instagram @DarkStoreFrontsMA.

Collectively we will share the photos with area government officials, and with consumers. Maybe then they will better understand what is happening, and hopefully start to feel some ownership for the disturbing economic and competitive trends. The ultimate objective is for more opinion leaders to decide to work with us on some real support and real solutions.

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