The Law of Unintended Consequences

I had an appointment with a client recently who told me that she was shocked to see how empty a restaurant was in downtown Springfield a few nights earlier. The reason she was so surprised was that this particular restaurant was relatively untouched by the tornado that tore through the center of the city on June 1. The owner stated that the reason things were so quiet was that people were simply afraid to come back.
Having read or viewed many articles and newscasts discouraging people from traveling to impacted areas (for completely understandable reasons) immediately after the tornadoes struck, I believe the law of unintended consequences might be starting to take effect in this region.
For instance, I myself have tried to stay clear of any impacted areas (unless going there to help with cleanup efforts). However, even though these intentions have been sound, the businesses that exist in these locations are suffering continued damages by this mindset. Many of these organizations were already struggling due to the recent, prolonged recession well before the tornadoes touched down. If their difficulties are now compounded by a sustained dropoff in business, a large number of them might not make it through to the other side. This could create a second wave of negative events for our region.
I write this in the hope that those who are in a position to do so can help spread the word regarding those conducting business in areas impacted by the recent tornado. I’ve already reached out to the leadership of Springfield encouraging them to use their amplified microphone to continue to spread the word that businesses are open and eager to serve — and that, when possible, individuals and business owners should do what they can to support these ventures.
I truly feel that those living and working in bordering communities need to be encouraged to travel back into impacted areas. The average local resident catches the news only on occasion, so it will take a genuine, concerted effort to convince people that it’s not only OK to come back, but such support is genuinely needed.
What we need is for individuals and business owners to think about both the direct and indirect victims of the tornadoes when they make decisions about where to stage the next staff luncheon or where to have their next date night. I’m a small-business owner in East Longmeadow, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how fortunate I’ve been to escape these tornadoes unscathed. But I’ve also been thinking about my counterparts in downtown Westfield, the center of West Springfield, the South End of Springfield, Wilbraham, or Monson who have been far less fortunate.
All businesses in our area are challenged by the economy, competition, and other factors. Businesses located in the paths of the tornadoes have been dealt an added blow that may prove crippling unless people step up and help in very simple ways.
My concern is long-term. If things are handled well, our entire region could use this experience as an opportunity to grow and prosper. However, if mishandled, we could see large-scale business closures and abandoned homes that could take many years to recover from.
Perhaps if we each do a little, then it might be enough to keep our collective community growing in the right direction.

Edward Zemba is president and co-owner of Robert Charles Photography; (413) 525-4263.

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