The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.
— Robert Frost
Vermonters have the ability to embrace the reality of living with one foot in winter and the other in “spring.” Well-seasoned locals keep their winter shovel on the porch alongside the lawn rake until that first cut of the grass, or longer. This versatility will serve us well as we navigate the staged reopening of society and the economy. We know that living simultaneously in two different modes requires different tools and strategies. We must collectively identify the best ways to adapt how we operate communities and businesses so that we can bridge the gulf between pre-COVID-19 practices and the changes in store for all of us.
This past Friday, Governor Scott announced the first guidance for a staged reopening of some sectors of the economy, with continued reliance on social distancing, use of masks, and attentive hand washing and sanitizing.
In the coming weeks BDCC’s COVID-19 regional Business Resiliency Program Webinar will feature Southern Vermont business owners demonstrating thought leadership as to how they and their fellow industry leaders will operate under new guidelines, rules, practices and soon-to -be norms. Please join us on Fridays at 2:15 to learn how our local entrepreneurs are adapting to an uncertain future. We will celebrate the creative ingenuity of our entrepreneurs who are already finding ways to reinvent their business delivery. BDCC, Downtown Organizations, Chambers of Commerce and other industry associations across the Windham Region and our counterparts around the state will all be key partners in helping businesses collaborate and share best practices.
Adaptation is no easy task, but a burden we share. We must continue to embrace the guidance of Governor Scott and his advisors as we longingly look ahead to sunnier days. We are Vermont Strong for a reason; we will continue to find ways to support our families, friends, neighbors and local businesses as we always have, and in ways that go beyond anything that has come before. Our society chose lives over dollars for the greater good of all Vermonters. This shared sacrifice will be woven into the fabric that is Vermont: celebrated by history, shouldered by generations to come.
Even as it becomes clearer how and when to reopen, some business models may struggle under the new limitations necessary in our new COVID-19 reality. Many Vermont businesses are still waiting on federal help, and just don’t know what the future holds. We must support these entrepreneurs who have been blindsided by events outside of their control.
The majority of businesses in Vermont have fewer than 20 employees. These businesses are owned by entrepreneurs who, in the immediate aftermath of the Stay Home Stay Safe order, worried first and foremost about how they could keep their team employed, not about how their business or their family would survive. Then, when federal help was on the horizon, they worried how they could navigate the federal Payroll Protection Program and Unemployment rules, making decisions based not on their own needs, but the needs of those they employ and the survival of their company.
There are thousands of employers across Vermont, from small family firms to big employee-owned manufacturers. These businesses and their dedicated employees help make Vermont so unique. As we begin to look to the seasons ahead, we must all work together to build the tools necessary to support our local entrepreneurs and the thousands of Vermonters they employ.
Let’s be sure to embrace (figuratively of course) our local business owners as we celebrate their past and future entrepreneurship … our recovery depends on them.
Adam Grinold is executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.