Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Bulldozers, Chain Stores and Amsterdam, New York

I have a day off from filming "Hypothermia" upstate in Amsterdam, New York. May go on a hike through the snow, from our hotel in the vacant detrius of what was once downtown to the Walmart, Ruby Tuesday's, Pizza Hut strip a mile or two up Route 30. I've loved the character of these small eastern manufacturing cities/towns since I first saw them as a young man. To see them on their way to being scraped from existence by the bulldozer's blade is sad. The homes have Victorian bones, the red brick factories are sized for sensible businesses. Makers of glass window panes, shoes, door locks. Three, four stories tall, twenty, thirty windows long, twelve wide.
Thirty years ago (more? less?) any kid in town could ride his bike to the house of the family who owned one of these businesses, or stand behind them in line for the movies.

That family was the most successful in town, and probably quite happy with that. "The Wealthiest Man in My Hometown" sounds laughably underachieving these days. Only an imbecile would waste time and energy building a manufacturing business when they could be importing those items and building a brand, right? Who cares about sponsoring the local teeball team when that money could be spent raising your social media profile, potentially seen by billions? And those actions don't need to take place in an often cold, snow battered place like Amsterdam, NY.

There is really no reason for money to come here. Businesses do, as evidenced by the strip out on Route 30, I imagine a result of tax deals so lopsided as to challenge their name, but those businesses are not wealth creating busineses. Haven't we learned? Those chain restaurants, those same twenty stores you see in these Anywhere, USA shopping strips, they are wealth extraction machines. And when their job is done, they will shut down, and the bulldozers from here in old downtown Amsterdam will move up Route 30 and scrape them away too.

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