Join community members for an informal conversation about local economy and what can be done. Friday, April 26, 8 a.m. at Mon Vert Cafe for coffee and conversation.
Area Groups Work To Revitalize Local Economy
By Ron Miller Sustainable Woodstock
Although the proposal for hiring an economic development professional was turned down by town voters last month, the need to improve the health and resilience of our local economy has not gone away. Our town and region face economic challenges that go well beyond a few empty storefronts. In recent years, wealth has been siphoned away from communities by big box stores, online shopping, and outsourcing of jobs and services. Woodstock, once a thriving market town for this region, now depends on an unpredictable tourist trade and there are signs that this is not viable in the long run.
The economic health of a local region directly affects issues such as employment opportunities, the diversity and vibrancy of a community’s population, school enrollments, support for nonprofit services, tax revenue, and stewardship of the natural environment. Sustainable Woodstock is concerned about economic development because a community that struggles with these issues cannot be sustainable. We encourage area residents and businesses to join with some of the groups that are continuing to work for local sustainable development.
One informal group of concerned citizens has been meeting weekly to discuss ways of strengthening the local economy. They are inviting anyone from the community to join them tomorrow (April 26) at 8 a.m. at Mon Vert Cafe for coffee (which they’ll provide) and conversation. If you cannot come then but want to be connected, contact Sustainable Woodstock at 457-2911.
The Village Business Alliance has recently begun exploring strategies for persuading more area residents to shop in Woodstock. These local businesses want to get the message out that village shops and services are not just for visitors. In recent years the VBA has helped make the village center more attractive, with hanging flower baskets in the summer and holiday lights. (Merchants have so far donated over $1,200 for this season’s flowers; to raise the rest needed they are selling raffle tickets for a basket filled with gifts from village shops, on display in Gillingham’s window.) Now they want to do more to connect homeowners and families to the life of the village. The VBA meets at Gillingham’s every other Tuesday at 5:30 p.m.; to learn more and get involved, contact Nick Ferro at 457-1901.
The critical importance of local economic issues is reflected in the work of other organizations in our area, such as Vital Communities. Its Local First Alliance urges residents to shop near home, because, as they say on their website (www.vitalcommunities.org), “three times as much money stays local when spent local. This reverberation of economic power, what’s called the local multiplier, results in an interdependent network of known and trusted businesses and service providers buying from one another over and over again. This is the fabric of a strong local economy. Thinking local first means remembering the multiplier, and voting with your dollars for the kind of community you want to have.”
The East Central Vermont Sustainability Consortium is also trying to get area residents involved in local economic development. They are conducting a comprehensive assessment of economic and environmental conditions in our region, and they are asking residents to respond to their survey to determine local needs. See it at ecvermont.org.
Also, our neighbors in South Royalton are making a serious and inspiring effort to go local through BALE (Building a Local Economy), which, among other things, will host its third annual festival in June. See what they’re doing at www.balevt.org.
These efforts depend on all of us to participate. Get involved!
(This story was first published in the April 25, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)