The Daily Gamecock

In Our Opinion: More Columbia business could decrease crime

While Monday’s mayoral candidate forum in the Ernest F. Hollings library was primarily focused — and rightfully so — on issues of safety in Five Points and Columbia as a whole, that’s not all the three contenders for mayor talked about.

They also touched on another important topic for the mayoral race and for Columbia, economic development, though one of the candidates, Larry Sypolt, did draw a parallel between economic development and crime in Columbia. He makes a good point: crime will deter business from coming to settle down in the area.

But we think it goes both ways. A better economy could deter crime, to an extent, making attracting more businesses an even higher priority for the Nov. 5 elections. Perhaps a solution to solving this dilemma might be in providing economic incentives to local business to generate a more dynamic clash flow here in the city. Solutions like these are paramount when it comes to the future of the city, and they play a key role in deciding where to place your vote.

There’s already been some success with bringing new businesses to the area. Chipotle and Urban Outfitters both opened recently in the Vista, and both have been positive additions to Columbia’s business climate. More national business — perhaps, even a Bass Pro Shop, as Sypolt suggested — could continue to stimulate the local economy.

Recent studies show that there is a distinct correlation between a growing business sector and less crime. New businesses in the city would provide new activities for students and citizens to partake in and would offer more jobs to those who might be otherwise inclined to commit crimes in order to make ends meet. Those jobs could also go to recent graduates from USC and other colleges in the area, which Mayor Steve Benjamin cited as the first step in bringing even more businesses to the area.

Investing in Columbia is not just an investment financially, but an investment in the safety of those who live here. Columbia is blossoming with new opportunities for business to thrive, and the city is home to a major research university with a population of students eager to support new industry.

That begins with cleaning up crime, both in Five Points and all over Columbia. Continuing the conversation on safety and economic development is crucial in the upcoming mayoral election.