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Interview with David O’Neil

Ohio City is so excited to welcome The 8th International Public Markets Conference to the neighborhood this month! In a preview of the event, staff from Ohio City’s own small business Strategic Urban Solutions sat down with David O’Neil to talk about the economic and health benefits of markets in our communities. For more information visit the event’s website.

Like most good things in life, David O’Neil fell into his profession. While working at the Reading Market as a way to get to talk to people for a mystery he was writing, he was approached by a few men who had worked for the Reading Railroad that owned the market. A couple days later he was offered the job of running the market. Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Mr. O’Neil did not have any previous experience with running a market, but he developed a deep passion for it and for seeing how markets can help shape and influence communities.

I had the privilege to talk to Mr. O’Neil and pick his brain about markets and their influential and beneficial natures.

Define some of the economic benefits of markets?

David: Well there are direct and indirect benefits. The direct benefits are the transactions, keeping the money local. Markets pay income and payroll taxes, so in that way they directly benefit the local economy. I think the indirect benefits are more profound. Markets create value in a community and people like to be there. Markets help to increase property values because people like to live, work and sell around markets. Other businesses like to be around a markets level of business.

What about the health benefits of markets? Both for personal health and the health of a community.

David: The personal health benefits are definitely the access to fresher and local food. Some say that food grown locally is more in tune with your body. Markets also influence health communities because health communities want to get people interested in eating healthier food options. It is easier to suggest a healthy food benefit with the help of the social aspect of a market. It’s not a clinical place. Local health communities in many ways start their trends in markets and then bigger, more influential industries pick up on them and they are able to spread that influence wider.

Environmentally, markets are healthy because there are fewer miles for the food to travel. Additionally, local farmers tend to practice more environmentally responsible agriculture. This is not the rule across the board, but in most cases local farmers use less toxic methods.

You mentioned to me that you have been working for Projects for Public Spaces for 22 years! How many Market Conferences have you been to?

David: I have been to all 8! I helped plan for 6 of them.

Wow! How do you think conferences help educate people about the markets and farms in their communities?

David: Cleveland is actually a good example of this. It is a market and a city that are both on a comeback. The role of the market in a comeback of a community is very great and Cleveland really showcases that. The market seems to be working on a larger scale here in Cleveland and the community immediately surrounding the market is feeling the effects. There is a great garden behind one of the apartment buildings near the market and there is a sense that the community is stronger by working together. People really respond to that kind of thing. It is something people can see and be proud of.

What are you most excited about for this market conference?

David: It is always fun to get together with other market people. It’s a time when we can support each other, learn and spend time with our peers. The tours around the area are always very popular, too. And we get to celebrate the market. Most people usually go to a market to work, but we get to go to a market and party!

Thank you so much for your time and I hope to see you at the 8th International Public Market Conference later this month!

David: You’re welcome and I am looking forward to the conference.

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