Thursday, December 18, 2008

Valley Journal 12.18.08

CARBONDALE, Colorado — The type of community organizing that defined President-elect Barack Obama’s early political career might just be an answer for Carbondale businesses as they look for ways to help each other survive the current national economic downturn.

Namely, Carbondale could benefit from a more inward focus when it comes to an organized, concerted effort to encourage local residents to support local businesses and services.

These same ideas were promoted by the Carbondale Economic Localization group that had been meeting in recent years, pointed out Steve Novy of Greenline Architects during a roundtable discussion among local business leaders last Thursday.

“At the core, Carbondale is much more savvy than a lot of other communities when it comes to working together to find solutions,” Novy said.

The meeting was part of a two-day “Community Conversation on the Economy” sponsored by the Carbondale Chamber and the town of Carbondale.

That “conversation” will continue next month when business and community leaders are asked to reconvene, and this time bring at least one more person each to the table. The next meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 8 at Town Hall.

“The most intriguing thing to me is that Carbondale already has this ability to be self-supporting, and self-sufficient,” Novy said. “It’s a concept people have embraced, and it’s a way to stay healthy in a weak economy.”

But that’s not to say the effort to maintain and build the local economy should stop at the town limits, pointed out Adam Odoski, owner of the Via Viva imports store in downtown Carbondale.

“We are forced to come together and think about each other in tough economic times,” Odoski said. But that also means marketing Carbondale on a broader scale, he said.

“Carbondale is a tricky spot to do business,” Odoski said. “There is a seasonal draw, but there is not as much going on year-round to attract people to Carbondale.

“We need to come up with a brand, and push that brand regionally and even on a national level,” he said.

The event began with a Wednesday panel discussion bringing together three local financial experts to assess how the national economic crisis evolved, what’s being done nationally to address it, and what local communities such as Carbondale can do to weather the crisis.

“One of the things we can do is keep things local, and work together to encourage people to shop local and focus on our local economy,” said Farrah Roberts, senior vice president of Alpine Bank in Carbondale, and a member of the chamber’s board of directors.

Joining Roberts on the panel were Ron Speaker, president and CEO of the Carbondale-based Equus Private Wealth Management, and Dan Korleski, chief investment officer for American National Bank.

“Be glad you are in Carbondale, Colorado, because it is a better place to survive this crisis,” Speaker told the 75 or so citizens who attended.

That’s because the kinds of unique solutions required to pull through a major recession are more likely to catch on in smaller communities that are already used to working together to address problems locally, he said.

The crisis on a national level was a result of too much greed and too many consumers spending beyond their means, the panel agreed. The recession will likely prompt consumers to rein in their spending habits, but what spending they do is more likely to be done locally, they said.

Carbondale resident Wendy Anderson turned it back onto the bankers on the panel to help the local community find solutions.

“Banks are getting bailed out, but we’re not,” Anderson said of the recent $700 billion federal bailout package. “We need you to stand up as leaders and help bring it back to Main Street, and look at what kinds of things can be done in the way of grants to small businesses and micro-enterprising.”

1 comment:

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