College towns feel impact as schools dodge coronavirus

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RUSTON, LA. (KTVE/KARD)– In most college towns, the university works as the community’s economic driver. Take that away and you’ve got a problem. That’s what’s happening in towns like Ruston and Grambling. Mayor Ronnie Walker said with students gone, the community is losing revenue.

“Those are the people you are losing who are buying groceries, who are buying gas, who are eating in our restaurants, who are renting apartments from people who are reinvesting that money into our city,” Mayor Walker said. “So there’s a huge loss and we want them back soon.”

Louisiana Tech has announced it’s pushing back its season opener to Sept. 12 as a health precaution. Mayor Walker said Ruston depends on those weekend games to bring in traffic and revenue.

“There was an announcement last week of the game between ULM and Tech,” Mayor Walker said. “I certainly hope and am encouraging people, if they are coming to the game from out of town, come stay in Ruston and go to the game in Shreveport, or come stay in Monroe if you are a ULM fan. Put that money into the economy in our towns where these colleges are located.”

Mayor Walker said the city has already cut 2.3 million dollars out of this year’s budget.

“We did that because with this pandemic going on, we are not sure exactly where we will be six months, eight months out,” Mayor Walker said.

City leaders say communities need to support local businesses now more than ever.

“If we are going to go out to eat, we need to go out somewhere in our town,” Mayor Walker said. “We need to support our businesses, our shops, every chance we get, but now with our universities down, we need to do that even more.

Mayor Walker said everyone can help by wearing masks and continuing to social distance to help lower the spread of the virus, which, in turn, will allow colleges to get back on track.

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