2007-12-08 / Viewpoints

JCPenney: Do Not Betray Us

(Paul W. Heimel is a longtime local journalist and will take office Jan. 7 as a member of the Potter County Board of Commissioners. He's also a member of the Coudersport Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors. Following are excerpts from presentation to the executive management of JCPenney Corporation following an announcement that the Coudersport store will close in February)

Coudersport isn't your typical little town. There are a lot of really bright people who are in this town because they choose to be. The fast pace of the city and the sprawling discomfort of the suburbs have been driving the population out to the smaller communities, where people still care about each other.

When the cable giant Adelphia tumbled into bankruptcy, Coudersport could have gone one of two directions: become yet another small town that dries up and blows away like a tumbleweed, or meet the challenge and make ourselves an exception to the rule. And that's exactly what we've done.

Yesterday I visited the new customer contact center that has just opened in Coudersport. That company figures to have about 600 new jobs filled within a year. Other employers are expanding.

Coudersport is coming back. We're rebuilding the local economy with a diverse collection of new businesses and industries while reaching out to others as a high-tech community that still maintains its rural charm. Our civic organizations remain vibrant and we're on the rebound. We would very much like for JCPenney to stick around and to share in this prosperity.

Plus - it's the right thing to do. I'd like to think that still matters in corporate America. I have always felt that this small, standalone store in downtown Coudersport symbolizes the mission and values of James Cash Penney.

If you think about it, this JCPenney store in Coudersport is a fantastic marketing tool. There is Wal-Mart, the big superstore, off by itself, sucking the life right out of the nearby towns. Contrast that, from a public relations perspective, with what JCPenney is all about in the minds of its customers. It's a good story and it's a winning strategy with unlimited marketing potential

Perhaps more important to you is the store's financial performance. From what I understand, it's not bad at all. And from what I can envision for the town of Coudersport - the way this community is starting to gather such momentum - it is pretty much a sure thing that it's going to get better.

I think I can speak for all of the elected officials and civic leaders in the Coudersport area when I pledge to the leadership of JCPenney our full support for keeping your local store in our community.

I only wish that Mr. James Cash Penney could hear this appeal. Just maybe, through your own sense of social responsibility and your respect for Mr. Penney's legacy, you will give our town of Coudersport the same kind of treatment and consideration that we would surely get from Mr. Penney himself.

We urge your organization to reconsider the decision to close your Coudersport store.

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