There is no debate that Vermonters have put up with a lot this past year and a half. Unanticipated, and certainly unwanted, COVID-19 has created chaos in our communities. Canceling our plans, laying us off, creating havoc in our lives, our children’s lives, our plans, and economic security.
As we continue to “turn the spigot” as Gov. Phil Scott is fond of saying and begin to discuss what happens after the restrictions are lifted in July, we have a rare opportunity to reinvent the way we interact with our communities and build them into thriving, prosperous places.
The way to do this can begin with one very simple step: remember your neighbors. Remember your neighborhood shops and services. Remember your local insurance agent, your local farm stand, the restaurant down the street you haven’t been to in years. Remember your local park, your favorite hike, your favorite fishing spot. Sure, the equipment to do your favorite activity can be procured easily with your laptop and mouse. But use that mouse to see what the shop down the road has to offer and pick it up curbside if you are apprehensive about shopping in person. Don’t be surprised if it’s your friend or neighbor bringing it out to you. These local shops and services, contractors, mechanics, car dealerships, etc. are the places employing your friends and neighbors, supporting your kid’s sports teams, helping to fund that town festival or help renovate your local library.
There is a dry statistic that states that a dollar spent at a local business is turned over three times, so every dollar spent locally equates to three dollars spent (source: American Independent Business Alliance). Behind this dry statistic are three living, breathing people who live in your community. By way of example, you buy a soda for one dollar at a local store, the store owner uses that dollar to pay her clerk, who uses that dollar in a local restaurant. Your dollars spent locally not only benefit your community because the business has the direct costs of a lease, materials and salaries, but also the indirect impact of doing business themselves with other local businesses, and the additional impact of their worker’s salaries impacting the local economy, as well.
We Vermonters have pulled together to try to protect the most vulnerable among us. We’ve avoided a lot of the chaos witnessed in other areas because of our commitment to each other and the values of helping our neighbors in need. We’re Vermonters, we do what needs doing. This has come at a high cost. Businesses closed, Vermonters laid off, community events cancelled, feelings of isolation and loneliness among some of us. Now, as we finally begin to emerge from stay-at-home orders, mask mandates and group gathering restrictions we have the opportunity see our friends and neighbors again and to pull together one more time and rally around the businesses who have provided us with goods, services and employment to keep us going not only through the pandemic, but through the years.
These businesses, their owners and staff have helped make our communities what they are today.
Kevin Eschelbach is the president of the Central Vermont Chamber of Commerce.