“We’re going to have to take care of each other. This is going to be more prolonged and worse than Tropical Storm Irene. We need to face that reality. This is serious,” said Eric Friedman, executive director of the Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce in an interview this week.
“One of the things I’ve been trying to impress on businesses is that there’s going to be a lot of downtime for a lot of people. At some point we’re going to reemerge from this, either this summer or fall or whenever it is, and we’re going to need to be able to hit the ground running. There’s going to be a great deal of pent-up travel demand. Finances are going to be touch and go for a lot of people and being able to drive here rather than fly is going to be appealing. The Mad River Valley is well situated to relaunch and we’ll use that time in between to get ready,” he added.
“We’re going to need to lead by example for our community. As a chamber and as community members, we need to minimize social contact in every single way possible. The only people who should be out are those who absolutely have to. The sooner we all get the message, the more successful we will be in flattening the curve,” he said.
Friedman met with the chamber’s board of director’s on March 16, the day before Governor Phil Scott ordered all food service businesses to cease in-house service in favor of takeout and delivery.
“Our role in this crisis will be to provide information, leadership and a platform for communication for our members,” he said. He said that his office is working to be a conduit for assistance from the Small Business Administration for businesses who may need help.
“I think people don’t even know they need help yet,” he said.
“Given how fast things are changing from hour to hour, we need to figure out how we can best support our retail businesses whether it’s buying gift certificates or what. How successful that will be is unclear. There’s a lot of financial uncertainty,” he said.
He said he understood that for many local employers, their biggest concern is to support for their employees.
“We’re going to have to take care of each other. This pandemic is very serious and the Mad River Valley will respond in the way that we always do with adversity, as a tightknit community. It heartens me to know and to have the experience with Tropical Storm Irene how this community came together. It makes me feel confident that we’ll do it again in ways that many other communities will not be able to. That’s the takeaway. The other positive thing is how quickly The Valley Reporter stepped up to be the conduit and how quickly people are mobilizing. That is awesome and we should be proud of that. It’s what differentiates us as a community from others. That’s why people want to come visit and live here. Those aspects of community are really important and we have it in spades here. We’re going to recover,” he said.
Friedman said he was pretty sure that Arthur Williams, founder of the Mad River Valley Community Fund, was smiling as well, as he watched the board of that fund rapidly mobilize to begin helping community members this week. The community fund has posted a shortened application for those who need help and funds will be distributed daily.