Op-ed: Individual actions save local businesses

By Tim Roper

I’ve heard and read quite a bit recently about how the town of Chester is killing small business through onerous regulation and thought this might be a good place to share some thoughts from my perspective in that regard.

I’m writing here as a citizen of Chester and a small business owner, not as a representative of Chester’s Planning Commission. That said, my experience serving our town as a member of that commission certainly colors this comment.

Our Select Board and our Planning Commission are very much pro-business. Anyone who has been able to attend any of the public hearings and/or our twice monthly meetings will certainly tell you that when shared, their voices are heard and duly considered.

Putting on my Planning Commission hat for a moment, I can tell you that I, along with others there have been working hard to balance three key aspects impacted by zoning bylaws. We value citizens’ feedback and input as we do that work.

These are the guiding points I use when weighing in on zoning decisions.

  1. Does this provide a regulatory and business environment that will attract and support new businesses?
  2. Does this provide a high quality of small town life for our residents?
  3. Does this protect the natural resources that make our town and state the clean, wild and beautiful place that it is now?

These guiding principles are often in conflict with one another but anything that ignores one or more of these three key considerations is very unlikely to be moved ahead by my Planning Commission vote as we work to write a new set of zoning bylaws for Chester.

It’s sure a lot easier to blame state and local government for the demise of small business success in a town like Chester, but the fact is that the choices each one of us make regarding where we’ll purchase the next item we need or want for our home, our person or our own small business are what’s driving the demise of our local businesses.

You don’t have to take my word for that. Reach out to the Erskines and ask them why they’re closing their doors after so many years of providing great products along with a helping of free advice whenever asked. Internet and out-of-town shopping are at the core of their decision as I understand it from Mike.

If the cheapest price, highest level of personal convenience or delivery to your door are what’s most important to you, you can go across the river or to the internet and buy your stuff from a global corporation that will never give a rat’s ass about our town and will never put a single one of your dollars back into our local economy.

If you care our about local businesses, you’ll have to patronize those businesses: Buy your lumber from a local mill; your hardware, plumbing and electrical parts from the local hardware store; your feed and agriculture supplies from our local feed store; your craft beer and wine from a local merchant; get your groceries in town or from a local farmer; find gift items in our local shops; take your kids to the local pottery place for a fun indoor afternoon; encourage friends who live elsewhere to come visit Chester, stay at a local inn, go out to eat and buy some souvenirs from a store on our Green and buy some locally produced arts and crafts, etc.

The bottom line is  that it is your choices that drive success or prevent a small business from being successful in a town like ours. Let’s stop looking for someone else to blame and start showing how we can support each other with our personal choices. Shop locally. Come to town governmental meetings. Be a good, local citizen.

Tim Roper is retired from the solar energy industry and currently owns Green Bee Lawn & Garden, an organic lawn and garden care company located in Chester. He has served on Chester’s Planning Commission since April 2017.

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  1. Robert Nied says:

    Tim has responded to the notion that Chester is anti-business perfectly. The Chester Select Board, the Chester Planning Commission, the Chester Economic Development Committee, the Springfield Regional Development Corporation and the Okemo Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce all recognize the need to build and maintain a vibrant economy in Chester, that is based on local, independent businesses. That is no easy task given the often short-sighted appeal of national chains, big box stores and the “convenience” of on-line shopping.

    A personal experience puts it into perspective for me. I walked into Chester Hardware three minutes before closing time, on a weekend, in the middle of a rainstorm with a panicked look on my face and a broken sump pump fitting. I was greeted with a calm and confident “we can fix that right up.” The next time your cellar is flooding think about how “convenient” it is to drive to Home Depot in Claremont or to order a replacement part from Amazon. Think also about where the money goes when you make your purchase. Is it infused into the Chester economy or does it flow to a corporate headquarters in Tennessee or Georgia?

    The formula for a strong small-town business economy is a combination of comprehensive planning and commitment by the community to support local businesses. As Tim said, its easy to blame local officials, especially when you are not the official trying to develop solutions to complex issues like economic development. Whether Chester is anti-business or pro-business is more a consequence of the community’s culture and goals and where you shop.