Editorial : No silver lining
The habit has been to regard our Island economy as happily out of step with what's going on nationally, and if globalization is influential in economic terms these days, well, we haven't factored that in yet. There is some justification for the long-held presumption that our insularity is an asset in tough economic times. After all, since the 1970s, the Vineyard has worked itself steadily upscale, so that if anyone is able to pay Vineyard prices, it will be Vineyard visitors, because the ante was awful steep to begin with. In addition, we have always thought, again with good reason, that if some part of the country and the national economy experiences a downturn, well we draw our paying customers from all over, and certainly some of these visitors will be from areas where the decline is less steep.
History also supports the notion that national economic woes, which cripple small communities as well as big cities on the mainland, have left us largely unscathed. Martha's Vineyard and its economy has grown steadily - sometimes rapidly, sometimes more modestly - but it has always grown since the nearly four-decades-long growth spurt began. We've added to the Martha's Vineyard population, the Martha's Vineyard housing stock, and Martha's Vineyard's wealth at a remarkable rate since we were discovered in the late 1960s. Remarkably, Martha's Vineyard has built and rebuilt schools and other public buildings throughout the period, buoyed by rising real estate values and well-heeled summer property owning taxpayers. Indeed, despite our best efforts to discourage visitors, summer, and even year-round residents, with high costs and layers of development regulation, growth has hummed handsomely along. Even tick-borne diseases haven't diminished the appetite newcomers have for Martha's Vineyard.
So, it is shocking to read, as we do this morning, that this Island community has begun to feel the effects of the staggering national and global economy, whose troubles are focused to a large extent on declining property values and tight credit markets. The concerns of local business leaders center on bank stability, the construction industry, home prices, and charitable donations, Times writer Steve Myrick reports.
Nevertheless, despite these justifiable worries, it is encouraging to learn that Sovereign Bank, parent of Bank of Martha's Vineyard, although under seige from investors, along with other large regional banks, endures, and looks forward.
"We're a strong branch, we're doing well," Paul Watts, Bank of Martha's Vineyard senior vice president told The Martha's Vineyard Times. "The bank has $12 billion in cash reserves. We're still making loans, we're still interested in making loans. Our deposit base is staying loyal to us."
That's exactly what Vineyarders need to hear, as the crushing national and international financial news deflates our spirits daily. Still, there is reason to worry, as Fielding Moore, chief executive at Edgartown National Bank, made clear.
"We're concerned about what the impact is to the economy if there aren't some measures taken to alleviate the credit crisis," Mr. Moore told Steve Myrick. "That really drives the economy. We're not part of that, but ultimately it will affect us if the economy suffers and we go into a very deep recession."
Islanders have reason to be optimistic. Martha's Vineyard's desirability, history, and widespread customer base suggest that hopefulness is not unreasonable, but neither is caution and careful planning, especially as we approach the long winter season ahead.