Shopko announcement hurts Ely

Ely suffered another blow to the local economy when Shopko announced all stores would close in June. While this is an example of corporate mismanagement and the impact of Amazon, losing a major business hurts Ely.
First and foremost we will have employees who will be out of a job. Efforts are underway by Up North Jobs to help these people find employment when the paychecks stop. There are jobs that will be available at the time of year, but not many that are year-round.
Our tourism economy provides jobs for people during the summer months but when restaurants, resorts and stores close in the fall, those jobs disappear.
The impact even hits us at the Ely Echo. We have been inserting Shopko flyers in our paper for years and had inserts scheduled out into May. Not only will we lose that business going forward, we’re likely going to be out $3,000 in bills the company now claims it will not pay.
For those who haven’t had to find a way to make payroll, trust us, every dollar counts. We’re like many small businesses in this town that are trying to make ends meet. We count on advertising dollars to make that happen, whether it came from Shopko or the city of Ely.
The city’s response to the closure was another trip (how many we don’t know at this point) to St. Paul. What in the world the governor or our elected officials are going to do escapes us. But when you don’t know where else to run, apparently you run to St. Paul.
Let’s keep something else in mind here. The Ely Shopko store was a money maker for the company. It had a solid year-round business that grew in the summer months. There is a demand for the products Shopko provided in Ely.
Is there another suitor out there to buy Shopko’s assets? Possibly. Could we see a similar type of business locate in the building in Ely? Hopefully.
But let’s continue, all of us, to shop locally. There are businesses in Ely who provide many of the same products. From greeting cards to groceries you can shop right here in town.
There is a company that is killing small towns and its name is Amazon. Combined with dollar stores along with Walmart and Target, Amazon is destroying small towns by wiping out small businesses. People may enjoy the convenience of shopping online but the way things are going we’re not going to have much left.
Our small businesses pay taxes, employ people and support the community for everything from school groups to churches to the Fourth of July. Good luck getting Amazon or a dollar store to donate. It won’t happen.
Shopko’s Foundation wrote checks to organizations in our community. We will miss that as well.
We’re working on our annual Progress Edition and this is a reminder of how tough it is for businesses in the Ely area. At this point, we’re still mourning the loss of the Goodwill store.
We’ve got too many vacant storefronts. Our school enrollment isn’t what it should be. And our big chance to bring good paying jobs to Ely is being challenged by a group who doesn’t appear to care if Ely dies or thrives.
Our local economy took a direct hit with the Shopko announcement. We can shake our heads at the company borrowing $180 million and then funneling the money to shareholders. That type of thievery hasn’t been seen since the days of long-time Reserve employees losing their pensions.
We’re going to double down on supporting our local businesses. Please consider doing the same. We just can’t afford to lose any more.