This Bismarck Tribune article about a dispute over opening a deli in a small town grocery store is fascinating.
Apparently Star Grocery in New Leipzig is operated by the New Leipzig Jobs Development Authority, one of the economic development public/private partnerships that are ubiquitous in our communities these days. So, in other words, the grocery store is pretty much owned by the government.
For the last three years it’s been operated by a father and daughter who came up with the idea of opening a deli to serve sandwiches and what not in the store. But the JDA didn’t like the idea, because they were afraid the deli will compete with a cafe that’s already open.
So now the father/daughter team are leaving the grocery, and the JDA (and the taxpayers, by extension) are hurting.
It’s all very interesting in its own right, but even more interesting is this sort of small town socialism which is gripping more and more of our communities. Rather than stores opening and closing based on the vagaries of supply and demand, we have planners deciding which stores should be open and what sort of competition should take place.
It’s worth noting that government-owned grocery stores are nothing new in North Dakota. Stores in Buffalo and Richardton are government-owned too, with the rationalization being that if these grocery stores are allowed to close the communities they’re in will dry up too.
But the thing is, why is it the job of taxpayers statewide to keep these small towns afloat? If the people who actually live in these towns won’t give their local stores the sort of commerce volume they need to stay afloat, why should taxpayers who don’t live in these towns and will probably never visit have to be on the hook to keep the doors open?
The best thing we could do for North Dakota is to yank tax dollars away from these economic development corporations.