Got into a discusion with a local the other day about Floyd’s economy, or — as he put it — lack of economy.
“All we’ve got around here now are artsy-fartsy shops and fru-fru places to eat,” he said. “Not much of an economic base.”
To some extent he’s right. Floyd’s economic base is not what it was four decades ago when I attended Floyd County High School. Back then we had three garment factories, three new car dealerships, five gas stations, two furniture stores, a Western Auto, a Ben Franklin and more restaurants.
But times change and Floyd became a victim of its unwillingness to change. When the garment factories closed, workers had to seek employment in Roanoke and the New River Valley. Many of them sought to offset the increased cost of driving by buying more fuel-efficient foreign cars. But the three car dealers in Floyd refused to sell foreign cars and those seeking cheaper transportation bought instead in other towns from dealers that offered the “non-American brands.” Even today, the one remaining new car dealership doesn’t offer a Japanese brand (although many county residents drive all-wheel-drive Suburus they purchase in Roanoke or Christiansburg).
Of the stores that existed when I left Floyd in 1965, only Farmers Supply, Harris & Baker Furniture and Floyd Pharmacy survive. Western Auto, Ben Franklin, Rutrough’s Drug Store, Thomas (later Skyline) Ford and Rakes Chevrolet are among those that are long gone. Some longtime businesses like C.W. Harman, Wills Ridge, Slaughters and Midway Grocery survive out in the county but Floyd’s “business district” is smaller and less diverse than it was 40 years ago.
This doesn’t mean Floyd’s economy is non-existent. The arts and crafts community is viable, the Floyd County Store continues to pack them in on Friday Nights for the Jamboree and the sounds of music fill the streets from Oddfellas to the Winter Sun. Change came, even in the face of resistance, and while what one was is no longer that now is should be considered for its positive influences on the community. And while some complain about the influx of “chains” like Food Lion, Hardees, Subway, Pizza Inn, Doller General or Family Dollar the fact that they survive indictes a desire of local residents to shop and buy their products.
Economies, whether local, national or global, are still based on the old-time principle of supply and demand and that’s one thing that hasn’t changed — even in Floyd.