While Rick Hampson's article about Main Street America in USA Today ("New Ghost Towns," March 2010) is largely true for many American industrial cities, Ravenswood, West Virginia, is one of the exceptions.
The piece generated more than 1,350 comments on USAToday.com and a flood of phone calls into City Hall. Community alumni, residents and government representatives are not too pleased with the article's tone –- and city officials want to set the record straight about where their city is going.
Interviews with Ravenswood Mayor Lucy Harbert were not included in USA Today's feature and there's more to the story. Has the recession posed serious challenges to the community? Of course. And it's certainly nothing new that globalization has had powerful affects on Main Street. But, Ravenswood the ghost town? Hardly.
Harbert wants surrounding businesses, colleges, and tourists to know that Ravenswood is dedicated to transformation: "I think people are underestimating our community's creativity and drive to stay relevant. Well, I'll tell you, we've got some big surprises on the horizon. To paraphrase Mr. Twain, the reports of our city's death have been greatly exaggerated!"
Silicon Valley to the rescue?
Not quite. But the city has already secured its first corporate sponsor, ScanCafe.com (http://www.scancafe.com), a national company based in Silicon Valley. The company specializes in digitizing, repairing, and preserving old photos, slides, and negatives, and has agreed to lend its support to the city. Working with officials in Ravenswood, specialists from ScanCafe will digitize the town's rich photo collection to enable the community to preserve -– and to more easily share –- historical photos in the new digital era. This support can help to upgrade the downtown museum, providing visitors with a more interactive, multi-media experience. The company has offered to scan the photos of every home in Ravenswood to help preserve the community's abundant heritage.
ScanCafe is the first sponsor to invest in Ravenswood and the commitment is both personal and professional. CEO Sam Allen explains: "Those of us who come from small towns know just how special they are, and Ravenswood is a great example. We wanted to invest in its future by helping to preserve its past."
The City of Ravenswood has retained a veteran public relations professional to help convey the story of the city's transformation, to help secure corporate sponsorships, and to create new Downtown projects that will help draw the attention of destination and regional travelers ("Ravenswood 2020"). In addition to ScanCafe.com, there are several companies that have expressed interest in supporting the town, with one website considering an investment in an upgraded, modernized Career Center for local residents.
Coca Cola, McDonald's, Frito-Lay, Burger King, Monster.com, Microsoft, are you listening? Sincerely, the People of Ravenswood, West Virginia.