Westfield is Making Business News

From the $9-Million renovation at the Westfield Shops to approval of the Stop and Shop in Westfield Center, from two new bridges to the arrival of two new stores, from construction of the Amelia Ferst park to the opening and reopening of several restaurants, to the arrival of a helicopter unit at Barnes, Westfield is making headlines.

Take Columbia bicycle. They're introducing a limited edition of their 1941 classic Columbia Superb bicycle, with tear drop tank, chromium plated headlight, instrument panel with tank and speedometer (that's right, speedometer), the sweetheart sprocket and chainguard, bow fenders. Just like the 1941 Columbia Suburb, the top of the line bicycle almost 60 years ago.

We often forget that Columbia was the founder of the U. S. bike industry. It was established in 1877! And now Columbia goes back to that pre-war era, before they converted their facilities to assist the war effort, before they started making school furniture. (Eighty five per cent of Columbia's business today is manufacturing school furniture.)

And one collector has already ordered his Columbia Superb--just to hang on the wall as art.

When you think about all the positive things that are happening this year, the positive things that are planned for the future, and the positive things that have happened in the past two years alone, you realize that Westfield is a good place to live, work, go to school, and do business.

No, not everyone agrees on all of the projects--some don't like the idea of Stop and Shop coming into our downtown, some want our Court House to be built faster, some are worried about the impact that construction of two new bridges might have on already awful traffic, some question the wisdom of Summit Power, but overall, I'd editorialize, Westfield is on course.

Perhaps that's why our population has increased from 26,300 in 1960, to 31,400 in 1970, 36,400 in 1980, to an estimated 38,000 today. Why our Industrial Park is full. Why nearly two thirds of our housing is owner occupied.

Why people like Peter Picknelly invest in Camfour, why Al Ferst builds Amelia Park to honor of his wife, why Ed Savides rebuilds the Westfield Shops.

And why we have to give up some of our ingrained negativity.

Many many years ago, probably almost 20 years ago, the members of the board of directors sat down to informally discuss where Westfield was heading. We each talked about our city's assets, its strengths...and it's weaknesses.

At the time, several of us noted that Westfield has a greater percentage of complainers, or naysavers, that other areas seemed to have, that we were always quick to criticize and slow to praise. And there was that NIMBY attitude of Not In My Back Yard.

I would like to think that some of that negativity has faded, but I still see too many signs of it peeking through.

When 35 people show up at a meeting at Westfield State to discuss acquisition of the Stanhome property, and only two people complain about the project, it was those two people who made tv and print headlines. Not the people who stood up and spoke out in favor of the project, or the others who were there in silent support.

I respect the right of critics and urge them to speak up, any time, on all issues. Afterall, the majority isn't always right.

But, we have to remember, as intelligent consumers of news, that papers and radio stations and television outlets don't pay attention to the dogs that aren't lost. That too often they are looking for the outrageous, the outspoken, the outlandish in the search for readers or ratings.

We have to remember that some very positive things are going on in our city and the Pioneer Valley. Even if the only people or groups making news are those who would oppose change.

Without being pollyannish, it's time to be positive. And, once and for all, put the conception that we are all looking to criticize everything to bed.

Enough of my sermon. But, as I keep saying, I AM proud of this city, its residents, students and businesses. And I think we have a very bright future. If we look for it and look forward.

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