“Put Your Money Where Your Life Is”: Reclaiming Our Local Economy

“Put Your Money Where Your Life Is”:
Reclaiming Our Local Economy

Event series focuses on local investment as a tool for rebuilding our region’s economy

“When the pandemic recedes, we all will be called upon to take extraordinary steps to revive the local businesses that serve as the foundation of our communities. One critically important step will be for you and other members of your community to move your investment capital from Wall Street to Main Street.”                                       

– Michael Shuman, Community Economist  

After a year of COVID shutdowns, bankruptcies, deaths, and economic despair, how can we, as individuals, help rebuild our economy and community? A series of events and workshops over the next several months aims to provide information and resources about local investment AND opportunities for action. Yes, opportunities−in addition to the economic disruption and heartache, the pandemic has brought opportunities for relocalizing our economy, catalyzing innovation, and shifting capital to where we live to fuel the entrepreneurs, businesses, and projects our communities need to be more sustainable, vibrant, and resilient.

The Upper Valley Indie Impact Study reported that businesses rooted in the Upper Valley keep up to 4 times more money circulating in the region’s economy than national chain stores, and that remote online retailers suck hundreds of millions of dollars from our economy each year. Local businesses create stable jobs, enhance community character, and support our communities with donations of time and money, and have proven to be critical resources during the pandemic emergency.

Increasing the development and success of more locally based businesses and innovations will make our region more resilient and strengthen our economy so that we can better handle future disruptions and challenges. Investment in these enterprises is critical to their success. Reclaiming our economy will require that we all “invest” in our future−whether by committing to shop locally more and click less, or by actually investing some retirement savings in the sectors, businesses, or projects that will make the Upper Valley a better place to live, work, and play for generations.  The goal of this series is to build awareness of the ways we can currently invest in reclaiming our economy as we recover from economic disruption, and to find new and creative tools and networks to move money from Wall Street to Main Street.

Many thanks for the sponsors of this event series: Mascoma Bank, King Arthur Baking Company, Hanover Co-op Foods Stores, Valley News, Norwich Solar Technology, LaValley Building Supply

Local Investment: An Introduction

February 23, 5:30-7 pm

What is local investing? What can it do for a community? Why is it important? Who can do it, and how? Join us for a panel discussion with local and regional entities that are mobilizing local capital for local businesses, projects, and people. 

Panel participants:

  • The White River Investment Club – Peter Reed and Charlie Page
  • New Hampshire Community Loan Fund – John Hamilton
  • Vermont Community Loan Fund – Will Belongia
  • The Local Crowd – Jen Risley
  • Norwich Solar Technology Community Investment Impact

Join us for a free virtual conversation to learn more about local investing from the people already doing it, and learn how you can put your money to work right here at home. 

Register for Local Investment: An Introduction

Learn more about local investing on our resource page

Local Investment 101: How to Reboot the Region’s Economy After COVID-19

March 4, 11, 18, 25, 2021

A four-session virtual workshop designed to help grassroots investors and community groups develop practical, local investment strategies, to fuel innovation and resilience in the community.  
Presenter: Michael Shuman, Community Economist and Author of Put Your Money Where Your Life Is

Small businesses throughout Vermont and New Hampshire have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic and related shutdowns, as have the local economies that depend on them. One readily available solution—one that does not depend on government bureaucracies—is to mobilize grassroots investment. Americans now have $56 trillion in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, pension funds, and insurance funds—nearly all of it invested in global corporations. Here in the Upper Valley, one conservative estimate is that there are $5-6 billion in locally managed investments; this figure does not include the untold billions invested by local residents but managed out of state. 

Recent changes in the law (around investment crowdfunding, for example) make it cheaper and easier for nonaccredited investors to put money into local businesses. However, most of us believe we have no choice but to continue to invest our money in the stocks and bonds of the world’s biggest companies, even if we barely understand them. There are real alternatives, but few of us know about or consider them. In fact, you can invest in everything that matters to you. You can put your money into that neighborhood grocery store you love, your little sister’s first house, or your nephew repayment of high-interest student loans. If you’re smart about local investing, you can do this in a way that provides substantial, stable financial returns and lower risk than for Wall Street investments. Plus, local investments come with social returns on investment and wind up strengthening your community, local resilience, and the tax base.

Local Investment 101 aims to help participants answer three essential questions:

  1. How can I rebuild my community and the local economy after the ravages of COVID-19?
  2. How can I make my community more resilient to better prepare for future global crises?
  3. How can I move my money into the businesses, projects, places, and people I know and love?
Workshop structure:
Four 90-minute Zoom sessions built around 15 videos (20-40 minutes each) with homework assignments to be completed prior to each scheduled session.

Session 1

  • Introduction of the class objectives, materials, and assignments.   
  • Introductions of classmates to one another.  
  • Introduction to the first eight videos.

Session 2 

  • Review of the first eight videos.
  • Preparation for assignment #1 (a personal investment strategy).
  • Introduction to the final seven videos.

Session 3 

  • Presentation and discussion of assignments.  
  • Review of seven videos. 
  • Preparation for assignment #2 (a community strategy).

Session 4

  • Presentation and discussion of assignments.
  • Next steps.
Who should attend?

The Local Investment 101 series is intended to help grassroots investors, businesses looking for capital, and policymakers committed to facilitating local investment.

Cost:

$100 fee for the entire four-part series. Scholarships are available upon request (contact nancy@vitalcommunities.org).

About the presenter: 

Michael Shuman is an author and leading visionary on community economics, serving as Director of Local Economy Programs for Neighborhood Associates Corporation and Adjunct Professor at Bard Business School in New York City. He is also a Senior Researcher for Council Fire and Local Analytics, where he performs economic-development analyses for states, local governments, and businesses around North America. His three most recent books are:

  • Put Your Money Where Your Life Is: How to Invest Locally Using Solo 401ks and Self-Directed IRAs
  • The Local Economy Solution: How Innovative, Self-Financing Pollinator Enterprises Can Grow Jobs and Prosperity
  • Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street

Register for Local Investment 101 Workshop Series

Learn more about local investing on our resource page

Series Sponsors & Partners:

                         

Calling for Civil, Inclusive Communication & Interaction: Thoughts on January 6

As an organization that brings people together, bridging boundaries and engaging our whole community to create positive change, we were shocked and saddened by the images that came to us from Washington, DC, on Wednesday. Watching a violent mob overrunning the Capitol,  recognizing the contrasts in how these protestors were treated compared to those calling for racial justice in the summer, seeing the violation of two of our nation’s most important institutions: fair and free elections and the peaceful transfer of power—all were ugly reminders of the deep divisions and systemic racism in our country.  This is not the nation we want to be. 

How do we pull back from this brink? At Vital Communities, we are reminded of our founding by members of the Upper Valley League of Women Voters. Nationally and locally, the League strives to involve people in the electoral process, especially the disenfranchised. We value the work done by the League, Fairfight in Georgia, and others to make the electoral process more truly democratic. 

The local League members who founded Vital Communities in the early 1990s believed it wasn’t enough to increase people’s access to voting; voters needed to be informed about important issues and understand the region as a whole. They saw the need for conversations and problem-solving among people from a spectrum of experiences, identities, and political outlooks. 

Nearly three decades later, that sort of deep, civil, inclusive conversation remains one of our guiding ideals. We believe this kind of community interaction can be, in its way, an antidote to the cynicism, misinformation, divisive rhetoric, and racism that is harming our nation. This week’s events at the U.S. Capitol were a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done. We’re hopeful that others will join us as we work to bring people together and build true community. 

The Vital Communities Staff

2020 Volunteers of the Year: The Upper Valley’s Mutual Aid Groups

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the Upper Valley, it brought an ever-lengthening list of questions and concerns. Would supplies of food and other essentials hold out? Where would those suddenly without income get help? Who would support those at greatest risk from the coronavirus so they could stay home and stay safe? Where could people get the best information about testing, public health measures, and social assistance programs?

Seemingly overnight, an answer sprang up: the “mutual aid groups,” an interconnected array of community-based volunteer groups that reached out to residents and shared information with each other. Those Upper Valley mutual aid groups, numbering close to two dozen, have been chosen as Vital Communities’ collective 2020 Volunteers of the Year.

“We usually choose an individual for this honor, but this year it seemed fitting to shine a light on the incredible network of people who stepped up for their neighbors with such ingenuity and resourcefulness,” said Sarah Jackson, Vital Communities Executive Director. “The mutual aid groups have been a great demonstration of how to be resilient in the face of challenges. They used online tools like surveys, meetings, spreadsheets and community listservs to reach those in need and to share information among other groups. The volunteers are people from within each community, who understand their town’s people and their needs.  The networks represent a true grassroots effort.”

Mutual aid groups constitute an ever-changing and not sharply defined list, but below is a representative list of some of the Upper Valley mutual aid groups, with contact information in the links:

Much help has also been provided by the Central Vt Council on Aging and local “aging in place” groups as well as through various communities’ boards of selectmen, town clerk’s offices, churches, village stores, schools, food shelves, and libraries.

Rehab Grants Create 68 Housing Units

Grants to landlords and property owners to help fix up vacant, unused rental properties have resulted in 68 new housing units in Windsor and Windham counties, according to recent figures from the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and Downstreet Housing

Property owners could receive up to a $30,000 grant per rental unit from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, which was utilizing CARES Act funding to improve the overall quality, availability, and affordability of rental housing throughout the state. The application deadline was November 1. Read more about the program here.

“A safe place to call home is an essential part of staying healthy, especially during this COVID pandemic,” said Mike Kiess, Vital Communities’ Workforce Housing Coordinator. “This program was a smart investment of public funds. The relatively small grants helped transform vacant properties into quality places to live. No new public infrastructure was required, and the additional residents provide more tax revenue for communities.”

The program added units to the following communities:

South Royalton (4)
BellowsFalls (7)
Bradford (1)
Brattleboro (15)
Hartford (9)
Newbury (1)
Norwich (1)

Springfield (9)
Williamstown (6)
Wilmington (1)
Windsor (14)