Hutto’s indifference fails business

1 Oct

Sally Valasquez opened Blue Jay Garden at the corner of FM 1660 and Farley St with high hopes. She bought the aging house and put a great deal of money into fixing it up, both as a home for herself and a unique business for Hutto. Her concept was to establish a venue where people could come and relax, enjoy good food and music in a garden setting. The garden includes native plants, fountains both for atmosphere and to attract birds, lots of bird houses and feeders, and features many recycled, eco friendly materials (including a very unusual fence) to demonstrate how we all can help the environment and save money.

Hutto is Ms. Valasquez’s home town and she came back with great expectations and a desire to give back to the community. She has made her living as a successful lobbyist at the state capital, and offered to help Hutto with projects where state aid or support might be obtained. She worked with the Chamber of Commerce and with other businesses downtown to create more awareness and to help bring business to everyone. Friday and Saturdays evenings she has featured local musicians without a cover charge in a town where entertainment is often scarce. And business started off pretty well, although there was a visible lack of support from city officials.

Then construction started on Farley Street. The first two days contractors blocked access to Blue Jay Gardens despite a city promise to keep the parking area open. But once “open”, trucks routinely blocked it again and signs for parking got knocked down. Little attempt by the city was made to help alleviate things. In fact, despite the fact business fell off and she had to cut her hours way back, the city decided that she should be charged commercial rates for water usage (the vast majority of water used by Ms. Valasquez is for residential).  Complaints have been given lip service at best. In fact, after opening the street after work last weekend, the contractors piled dirt up to block off the nearest off street parking.

Personally I believe all this indifference has been deliberate. City administration does not like complaints and those businesses who do complain often find they have problems. In addition, Ms. Valasquez has been “pushy” in her efforts to get the city to apply for grants and other help which is available from the state, trying to save the city money, and this was resented. That resentment helped fuel the indifference. The Chamber has tried to help but rather half heartedly. The HEDC, which has often talked about (but never acted upon), establishing a business retention plan, has done nothing.  The city council appears to be totally oblivious to the situation, but when it comes to small businesses in Hutto they have always talked a much better game than they actually play.

Debbie Holland, our mayor and a long time resident of Hutto, should be leading the fight to help Sally, but she has been silent. Why should she be leading the fight? Not just because she is mayor but because she is also on the Chamber board, and she and her husband, Charles, just opened new offices diagonally across from Sally on the corner of FM 1660 and Taylor St., only a couple hundred feet away. Mayor Holland sees the situation at Blue Jay Garden every day. Taylor St. is scheduled for a makeover just like Farley, and you can bet that she and Charles will not receive the same treatment. The Hutto Chamber should also be taking a very active role in trying to help Blue Jay Garden, especially since their offices are just across the street and are directly affected by the construction as well, but they have been rather passive. They haven’t even complained when two or three of the contractor’s trucks park right outside their door on East St., totally blocking the Chamber from view.

The city council is made up of people who love Hutto and who want it to have a bright future. Of that I have no doubt, but they need more than dreams. They need a passion to see everyone succeed and they need a willingness to act on that passion.

Small businesses in Hutto should be concerned, and so should anyone considering opening a business in Hutto because how one business is treated is a pretty good indication about how any business may be treated. And unfortunately Blue Jay Garden is but one example.

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One Response to “Hutto’s indifference fails business”

  1. MWatt1 04/10/2011 at 5:05 pm #

    It’s sad to know the city isn’t doing anything to help address the concerns/complaints from Blue Jay Gardens regarding the construction work. If the city made a promise to keep the parking area open for Blue Jay Gardens, then they need to live up to their promise. Ignoring the problems and complaints doesn’t make the problems go away.

    If Hutto doesn’t have any fun places to visit like Blue Jay Gardens, then it forces us to spend our money outside of Hutto as we search for entertainment in Round Rock, Pflugerville and surrounding areas. That’s not good.

    The city of Hutto needs to do a better job of supporting small businesses in Hutto.

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