For all the bad raps Kentucky Oaks Mall seemingly takes -- it siphons shoppers off downtown, traffic is a hassle, popular stores close abruptly -- it nonetheless remains an important, if undervalued, part of Paducah and McCracken County's economic profile.

The mall is a regional draw, pulling people off the interstate; it provides hundreds of jobs, keeps residents and their dollars home for big box and chain store needs; and has been a catalyst for development on and around Hinkleville Road.

The editorial board believes Paducah and McCracken County would be diminished, perhaps to a large degree, without Kentucky Oaks and its halo effect on businesses and quality of life.

But, as has been well-chronicled here and other places throughout the country, shopping malls aren't doing as well as they once did. Like most brick and mortars, they're losing customers in droves to online shopping, specifically retail goliath Amazon.

Look an hour north, to Marion, Illinois, where the city's mall closed in December 2018. The mall's owners filed bankruptcy after years of declining foot traffic and store closings, though anchor stores Dillard's and Target, which are independently owned, remain open.

The trend of mall struggles, combined with store exits at Kentucky Oaks in recent years, raised the logical question for the editorial board, and we're sure many others: What's the mall's future?

Cafaro, Kentucky Oaks' parent company, answered those questions in a big way last week.

The company announced that it was essentially tripling down on its local investment by acquiring Olivet Church Crossing, home to Kohl's and Michael's, and pouring millions more into renovations at Kentucky Oaks.

Let's keep this news, however positive it may be, in perspective. The acquisition and renovations aren't going to dramatically improve the community's economic outlook with an influx of new businesses or industry -- let alone much-needed high-paying jobs.

However, there's something to be said for Cafaro maintaining and expanding its foothold, especially in light of so many industry competitors folding.

The announcements should come as reassurance the company continues to view our community as a worthwhile place to do business, and sees enough potential growth that it's willing to back its belief with capital.

That's a valuable message, one we hope is marketed to outside developers and entrepreneurs.

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