From Bill Hancock at 99 Blocks:
In about three weeks, on July 5 to be precise, the fifth anniversary will roll around for 99blocks magazine. Unfortunately, the magazine won’t be around to celebrate. This will be the final post for our website. We are closing down 99blocks.
Blaming this on downtown or the economy doesn’t cut it, especially when a successful exemplar exists just down the road. Kirk Ross made advertising deals with local vendors and created The Carrboro Citizen. Kirk has been pointed out by the national media on several occasions as having the answer. Additionally, Kirk spends untold hours helping anyone and everyone do the same in other communities.
Like it or not, Bill Hancock, while presumably a journalist, does not possess the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to build a newspaper and keep it running. Sadly, he wears his heart on his sleeve and has dared everyone to help him succeed. I’m not saying it is easy or that I would have had better luck, but I am saying he could have done a lot more to avail himself of the resources required to be successful.
I repeat: the failure of 99 Blocks is neither an indictment of the state of downtown Greensboro nor the local economy. One need only visit nearby cities such as Asheville, with its imaginative and innovative Mountain Xpress, to see success in action.
I hope Hancock finds employment, but he was never suited to this enterprise.
Being married to a successful entrepreneur and having spent a career helping small and emerging businesses, this really chafes my hide. 99 Blocks, with a print edition, could have been the engine to drive awareness and revenue downtown. What it required was a publisher who would not take no for an answer or knew the meaning of failure. I suppose these days those kind of bulldogs are fewer and fewer, but that’s what it takes to get a new business off the ground. It takes someone with incredible vision and the ability to get it done. There are lots of folks with the former, but almost nobody with the latter.
What downtown Greensboro needs is a leader, rather than the bunch of pussies and losers which pretend currently. It requires someone audaciously persuasive to herd the few successful businesses and the many which never will be. It requires a Kirk Ross or a Cecil Bothwell and I can see none in sight. Perhaps the demise of the Jaycees robbed us of such people. In cities like Mobile, Baton Rouge and Houston the Junior League achieves incredible things. Around here the most we seem able to manage is a bunch of whining bloggers.
In such a vacuum, men of distinction, like Robbie Perkins and Matt Brown, feel they are free to do as they please. Those with the means to do something, like that pack of fools which own the Empire Room, hide behind their mothers’ and wives’ skirts rather than grow a set and seize their destinies. Perhaps if we wait a generation their children will not be so timid.