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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673
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Mad River Valley needs strong business base to survive

02/28/2008

By Don Simonini

I have been reading the recent letters to the editor concerning "businesses closing in The Valley" and wish to add my opinion on the subject. 

The recent issue of the sandwich board admonishment for the Lily of The Mad River Valley and Country Creemees is a continuation of the anti-business attitude of some members of The Valley community. There is a small but vocal group of residents who want things to remain the same and not have any change. This vocal minority exerts influence on the select boards and their decisions on topics of development and growth. The select boards and planning commissions have become, in my opinion, gun shy and overly influenced by a small but vocal minority who resist change, threaten law suits and stifle growth at almost any cost.

We have a unique opportunity in this Valley to encourage and develop new "environmentally clean" businesses that can employ young people and help create a strong broad-based business climate that will support year-round restaurants, and shops. Sugarbush Resort has done a phenomenal job developing their "brand," but we cannot expect their efforts to singlehandedly support the entire Valley. We need to step up as a business community and do our share for the long term.

Anyone who thinks this Valley will survive and prosper without a strong business base is naive. The irony is the beauty that some of our more vocal residents want to protect is the reason people want to come here. Unfortunately, like the letters to The Valley Reporter have stated over the last few weeks, people will stop coming here if they cannot find a variety of year-round restaurants, year-round shops, and year-round recreational opportunity for their entire family. Like it or not, we are in the tourist business and we should, as a cohesive Valley community, use this as an opportunity to encourage and not discourage well-thought-out and well-planned business growth.

Without a long-term stable business base in "our Valley" it is back to farming which, as some people recall, ceased to be a viable business strategy because The Valley farms could not compete with the large Midwest conglomerates. Specialty organic food production is great but will not support the broad needs of this community in our lifetimes.

I sincerely wish the various boards would find the courage to tell the vocal minority to stop placing roadblocks in the way of sound well-thought-out development and recognize that without a strong local business environment our beloved Valley will continue the slow business decline we have seen in the last 18 months. And no, this decline is not a "business correction" because that implies we over-expanded and as we all well know that is not historically true!

Don Simonini is a Fayston resident.
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