Business owners, local government, residents all meet to discuss Blacksburg businesses

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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ7) Downtown Blacksburg is working to destroy the stigma that businesses can't open or succeed there. On Wednesday night, they brought in the local government to help.

Eamon O'Meara/WDBJ7

Wednesday was the third meeting of Accelerate Blacksburg, a group of business owners and residents who care about a successful and prosperous downtown. Four members of Blacksburg's Town Government were in attendance to get involved in revitalizing this area.

Downtown Blacksburg has many small shops and restaurants. But unfortunately, there are also lots of empty store fronts. Town council members say they're aware and are trying to solve that problem.

"Our council members are on merchants groups. That helps the communication back and forth with our business community and town staff and town council," Susan Anderson of the Blacksburg Town Council said.

Business owners think the town could also look at policies and ordinances that may be hindering new business from opening. But another issue is not relying on Virginia Tech students, who aren't likely to shop much downtown.

"The university can supply most of what students need, so we can't look at the student population as being a sustainable business clientele for downtown," Accelerate Blacksburg organizer James Creekmore said.

Businesses at the meeting admit that it also falls on them to get people to their business.

"We talked a little about the walkability of the town, but just to have more things down here that brings people down," Downtown Blacksburg Inc. Director Laureen Blakemore said.

"If you live in Blacksburg, you need to be coming downtown and we as business owners need to give those folks a reason to be downtown and that's what we're working on," t.r. collection owner Tom Raub said.

But the other issue is residency. The town council admits getting more people to live downtown year round is an issue that's very difficult to solve.

"I think that if we had some higher density, nice housing built in our core downtown, it would help radiate improvement out to the surrounding neighborhoods where people would say, 'Hey yea I want to live down there and I'll buy that house and renovate it,'" Cecile Newcomb of the Blacksburg Town Council said.

Another part of Wednesday's meeting was to introduce a new committee that will work with the town. Town council just passed a resolution to create the Business Relations Committee that will work to grow more business. The committee's first meeting is Thursday morning.