Editorial: Bristol: The community as CEO

There’s good news in Bristol. Phoenix Rising, the Yoga organization that uses Bristol as an annual base for programs drawing patrons from around the nation, has opted to stay in Bristol for the rest of the year and, perhaps, longer. That’s a reversal of a decision declared earlier by co-owners, who had planned to move to Burlington before year’s end. (See story in this issue.)
Is this big news? Well, certainly not as dramatic as IBM’s recent announcement to lay off another 300 or so employees at its Essex Junction plant, or the potential 200 full- and part-time jobs at the St. Albans Wal-Mart that opens this fall, but the group does bring revenue into the Bristol community at important times and it brings a diversity of visitors to the town that has its own rewards.
But the real question Bristol residents might want to ask, now that all options are on the table for its future location, is how important is it to keep the group in town?
It’s a question of economic stability and potential economic growth. Are town residents interested in doing the things necessary to attract the business needed to support a healthy business community, or would it prefer to be a bedroom community to Middlebury and Chittenden County and leave economic development to others?
If Bristol residents want a healthy downtown, looking at the impact of having Phoenix Rising come to town during its regular intervals would be worthwhile. The Addison County Chamber of Commerce and its Bristol branch could lend its support to accomplish the task. Next, the community might endeavor to find ways to accommodate the desires that initially led the company to opt for a Burlington-site. The community could even brainstorm ways to offer the guests experiences to enjoy that would not be available in the Burlington-area.
It is, in short, about customer service and putting the entire community in the role of a business CEO. The question to collectively address is: Are we doing what’s needed to keep what retail and economic base we have, and grow if we want to? That doesn’t mean the community should be eager to subsidize one operation or another through tax-breaks or other mechanisms, but it does mean the community should be addressing such issues together and coming up with viable solutions.
The other good news is that there’s time, if the community acts quickly, to at least respond with a pro-active plan on this immediate issue, and to be pro-active on other things that could be on the horizon.
Angelo S. Lynn

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