The planned closing of the Shopko Hometown in Morris, along with all remaining Shopko stores in the U.S., has sparked discussion about what could take its place.

Some may be speculating about the possibility of a Target or Walmart being placed in the Shopko site.

Others may be speculating about a new restaurant or another retail or service business.

Whatever fills the soon-to-be empty space when Shopko closes in June, it won't be a Target or Walmart.

The population of the region won't support such a store. Although demographic information from the state indicates that Stevens County's population is projected to grow some in the next 10 years, that growth combined with the populations of nearby communities, isn't enough to support the number of shoppers needed to sustain a Target or Walmart.

The census bureau population estimates for 2017 are: 5,900 Grant, 9,600 Stevens, 10,900 Pope, 3,300 Traverse, 9,400 Swift County. It's not an exaggeration to say that each of those roughly 34,000 total people would need to spend hundreds of dollars each week to keep a Target or Walmar afloat in Morris. That just isn't going to happen.

What could happen is a smaller retailer, a locally owned service, retailer or restaurant, perhaps even a smaller chain retailer or restaurant or a mix could locate in the Shokpo building. That would be somewhat like what happened in the former Coborn's building.

Just because the population won't support the criteria for a larger big box retailer, it doesn't mean the population can't support something on a smaller scale.

It's also important to remember that Morris, Hancock and the region have many smaller, locally owned businesses that work hard to capture your retail and service dollars.

Shopko's loss will be felt in Morris and the region. Employees will need to find different jobs and will need to face the uncertainty that comes with that. Shopko was a draw to the community and that benefitted all businesses in Morris.

And yes, we may need to drive out of town to find certain items we frequently bought at Shopko.

What won't help the remaining businesses and services in Morris and in the region is to focus on the loss of Shopko and complaining to our friends and neighbors about how there is no place to shop in the area. Instead, let's make it a point to educate ourselves on what's available in our area, try to spend as much time and money in those businesses as reasonably possible and share about our experiences with friends and neighbors.