A searchable guide to local businesses of all sorts, expert help for businesses trying to survive the pandemic, and a crowdfunding platform that already helped save our local daily newspaper: these and more are part of an overall Upper Valley economic recovery effort in which Vital Communities has played a critical role.
It began when Vital Communities was asked to do what it does best: bring people together from across the Upper Valley to identify problems and create solutions. At a meeting of municipal leaders in early March focused on the health and municipal impacts of the looming coronavirus pandemic, Lebanon City Manager Sean Mulholland and Hanover Town Manager Julia Griffin asked if Vital Communities could bring together local leaders around economic disruption.
Vital Communities started two weekly virtual meetings, one with people from local Chambers of Commerce and the other involving a broader spectrum, including a bank CEO, a town manager, a few local chambers directors, and economic development folks at the city, regional level, and state level. “At that time, everything was changing really quickly,” said Tom Roberts, executive director of Vital Communities, “so having a weekly phone call was helpful, just to compare notes, to join together, and to talk about what the needs were.”
The meetings helped get important new information to local businesses and helped everyone deal with puzzles like the federal Payment Protection Program and safely reopening. “It’s helpful for the different members to be able to ask somebody from a bank what’s going on with this, or someone on the city level about that,” added Tom.
So far the meetings have given rise to a number of developments that help our local economy in the short term and long, including:
- the creation of a discussion list for businesses to share information;
- the hiring of a Pandemic Small Business Navigator shared by Vital Communities and Grafton County Economic Development;
- a new Vital Communities Guide that lists local farms and businesses to keep money local by patronizing;
- a “buy local” advertising campaign;
- creating a community crowdfunding platform, TLC 4WARD, to support small businesses.
TLC 4Ward has already raised over $155,000 for the Valley News and has recently expanded to allow donations to many different local businesses through the site.
These meetings highlight the value of collaboration and shared information at a time when doubts and questions abound for many. We are stronger when we work together to solve our region’s challenges!