Editorial : Shop for our own good
The Vineyard economy, in the macro sense - if such a term may be applied to such a small market - depends for its good health on seasonal business. We distinguish sectors, such as real estate, construction, retail, lodging, and so forth, but in fact they are all tightly involved with one another, and all depend heavily on the seasonal import of fresh dollars. Most of this seasonal income comes from summer property owners or long-term visitors who rent. Apart from this seasonal economic lift-off, the other two significant sources of blessed greenbacks are real estate tax payments and transfer payments, such as Social Security or pension disbursements to retirees, or income from invested funds, also largely for retirees. The real estate tax payments, which fund town governments and schools, the largest employers in the aggregate - really the biggest year-round businesses - come mainly from summer property owners, not year-round Islanders. It is arguable whether these dollars ought to be folded into the seasonal revenue line item. It is also the case that most of the charitable giving, which funds important social and health services here, comes not from the chief consumers of these services, who give little, but from summer residents.
We're an especially fortunate, small company town, whose economic fortunes - at least measured as we like to measure them in good times - depend on wealthy friends and neighbors who like to spend lavishly and are able to do so. And on the weather.
But, in global economic moments like these, Islanders in all categories - year-rounders, month-longers, season-longers, eight-monthers, off- and on-ers - need to take up a larger share of the burden. The health of Vineyard business, though our habit has been to think otherwise, correlates nearly exactly to the health of the Vineyard community as a whole. We are not, after all, a wilderness outpost, growing, weaving, sewing, sawing, and hammering a straightened existence out of the land. We are, actually, a small suburban town, remarkably blessed with lovely, restorative beaches and moors, and content with life as we live it. When toting up our blessings, we account for the natural environment and the good nature of the folks, but we often ignore the value of the business community that works hard to serve our interests.
But, having in mind the ways in which we depend on our Island businesses, we need to patronize these businesses, rather than leaving the patronage entirely up to the summer visitors, and especially when desperate pressures beset them, as is the case today. There are good Island businesses, in need of your patronage, and prepared to compete successfully for it. They have what you need, or can get it. They price their goods as competitively as possible, and in exchange for a modest premium, they offer convenience, service, and dependability. In addition, with your neighborly patronage, they will sustain themselves and flourish, which will in turn sustain us.