Yuengling Brewery celebrates its 190th anniversary today with a massive party in downtown Pottsville.
Things get underway around 1 p.m. and wrap up with a big fireworks display around 10 p.m. The 90s alt-rock band Better Than Ezra puts on a free concert around 8 p.m. Food vendors, craft vendors and, of course, a beer garden or two will keep things frothy throughout the day.
Organizers predict thousands will be here to celebrate. It’ll be the biggest day in Pottsville since the last truly great Pottsville Cruise Night, no doubt.
But think for a second what Pottsville would be today without Yuengling Brewery.
What would be left?
The thousands of people today are going to get a good look and ask themselves a lot of questions. Like, what the hell is happening in this town?
That’s a great question. And there’s no one simple answer, unfortunately.
If we had to try and we’re going to … we’d say it’s the literal interpretation of American carnage.
To those coming in from out of town and to those who’ve been here for a while, it’s obvious Pottsville has seen better days.
Pottsville’s Problems – Can’t Fence Them In
Take a look around at the downtown in the broad daylight today when you’re at the festivities. There’s a cage around one of the largest commercial buildings in the city. It’s smack dab in the middle of the central business district. Normally, that would mean the building is under construction. Progress is happening. Maybe someone’s fixing it up.
Not here. Not in Pottsville. Here we put up that fence to make sure the pieces falling off what’s known as the Thompson Building don’t hit the random pedestrian on the downtown sidewalks.
That’s not our only caged area in the business district.
Tonight, right next to where Better Than Ezra takes the stage, there’s another major fenced-in area. That’s protecting people from falling in the hole in the ground caused by the major flooding about this time last year.
Those problems can be fixed rather quickly if the city had the resources (aka money). Those are superficial things. The cages look terrible but they’re only a sign of much bigger problems. These are problems we can’t fence in, unfortunately.
The Great Pottsville Revitalization, Volume ??
Have you heard? Pottsville is going through what they call a revitalization.
But you’d have a hard time believing that if you look around downtown. There are a lot of empty buildings. And there are less businesses downtown now than ever. On most Saturday nights, the place is a ghost town.
This is not Pottsville’s first revitalization. We can recall efforts in the mid-1990s, the early 2000s, and now.
Here’s the problem with this. Groups like PADCO – who push revitalization efforts like these with some incentives to improve properties and organize events – operate on handouts from grants and other economic development funds to get projects moving. Without money, it’s more of a cheerleader group than anything.
So, that leads us to Pottsville’s biggest problem.
Pottsville: The Welfare State
Ever notice how after every revitalization, things get worse and worse in Pottsville? Sure, a building here or there might get fixed up but often times, it’s not a private owner doing it. It’s either the government or some quasi-government group doing the work and then leasing it to some government agency far above what it’s actually worth on the open market.
We can’t do anything without some form of government involvement. Even in situations where the government assistance isn’t needed — like today’s event — they manage to sneak in there and grab some of the spotlight.
The truth is, Pottsville has no economy. We’ve got Yuengling and that’s about it. Without Yuengling, there’d literally be nothing today.
And we’re worried the city is going in the wrong direction, especially with this latest edition of what they’re calling a revitalization.
In a recent interview with State Sen. Dave Argall, the head of PADCO (and owner of The Wheel) Savas Logothetides says his organization follows a master plan for downtown. And they say the primary path to revitalization is tourism.
Check out the full podcast here. It’s only 5 minutes long:
News & Views Podcast with Senator Argall
I recently spoke with Savas Logothetides, Executive Director of Pottsville Area Development Corporation, about how the Yuengling can help to revitalize Pottsville.https://t.co/WQ3sIywAvX pic.twitter.com/52Bq2QWIsv
— Senator David Argall (@SenatorArgall) July 12, 2019
The Tourist Trap
Thousands of people a year come to see Yuengling Brewery and then presumably leave soon after that. What’s keeping them here? Nothing.
After all this time, what makes anyone believe that tourism will bring Pottsville back to greatness?
No, the path to a revitalized Pottsville is not tourism. That’s not saying people can’t come visit here and that we shouldn’t encourage more people to come check us out. But the tourism industry can not sustain the revitalization of an entire city. Especially a city that’s fallen as hard as Pottsville.
Tourism doesn’t create the jobs that industry creates. And Pottsville’s not a museum.
Pottsville Needs a Few More Yuenglings
Normally, this would mean tossing back a few more Premiums. But in this sense, we’re talking about Yuengling the employer. The brewery, along with the struggling hospitals, are among the biggest employers in Pottsville. Unfortunately, there aren’t many others.
The thing that made Pottsville a city that didn’t need to revitalize was jobs. Everyone was working. Men, women … kids. Mules, cows … CANARIES!
And despite our county economy recording near-record low unemployment, there aren’t enough people living in Pottsville who work full-time, family-sustaining jobs from private industry. Instead of trying to lend a hand, get out of the way.
Until the “leadership” in positions that allegedly matter address the real path to revitalization here in Pottsville, we’re all just putting more and more lipstick on the pig.