Becca's column, "Commonwealth Dairy: A dollar and a dream" ( Brattleboro Reformer, Aug. 13), was for me one of those "Now, why didn't I write that?" numbers. The voice in my head asking that question sounded just like a mother talking. "You couldn't find the time to write that, Jerry?" Oh, Mom. (But she'd have been right about that - as about a gazillion other things.) In "Commonwealth Dairy " Becca accomplished with intelligence, sound research and just enough ballyhoo to keep it safely side of jingoistic, what any Chamber guy or gal ought to be able to: Accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In Between," as the old song goes.
I was particularly struck by how her very premise recalled another intriguing Becca column published by the Reformer back in March called "The making of things."
That lauded piece was prompted by a discussion Becca had had with her son about the making of arts things and what that means to the overall economic vitality of the Greater Brattleboro community. And about how other stuff that used to be made here isn't being made here anymore.
Apparently needing more, Becca's boy pressed on with a couple of those "Why, Mom?" questions: " What do we make here now? What do we make that you can use?"
This charming yet challenging push gave Becca the platform for her argument: they just don't make 'em like they used to. We don't make 'em like we used to. And that may in fact be one of the reasons we struggle economically around here. We just don't have "making things" jobs around here the way we used to.
A few weeks ago I ran into Becca at an event downtown. I introduced myself adding that I've enjoyed reading her, yet there was one column above all that had caught my attention. We said we'd chat about that sometime, and haven't. Becca: This is that chat - brief and to the point.
In "The making of " you wrote: "Economic development is an awfully complex issue; it involves demographic issues, workforce development, and education policy. But our attitude may be the biggest impediment to change. We cannot remain in the furrows (I love that, Becca!); we must seek innovation for our town and region."
Well, five months later here you are celebrating the success of Commonwealth Dairy. The Commonwealth story is inspiring. In seemingly no time at all the dairy's employing about 100 workers (150 percent more than when they started up), many if not most of whom had never "been in yogurt" in their lives - like their own bosses.
You also cited local entrepreneurial-inspired Against the Grain, the Saxtons River Distillery and Fulcrum Arts. How right you are to have done.
Were your son to ask today what he asked that winter afternoon, Becca, you'd be able to point out that we do make things you can use. Things for good nutrition. Things for a pleasant imbibe. Things of beauty.
We also make useful stuff like furniture and jewelry and craft beer and hometown roasted coffee and yarn and jams and pottery and cheese and food supplements and countertops and, OK, cool precision parts that machines use, even if we ourselves don't.
Chamber guy or not, I'm sure I'm just scratching the surface of what those innovators are up to behind those workshop walls - or even those picket fences.
As you wrote: "An old commercial for the lottery proclaimed, "It only takes a dollar and a dream."
To win in the game of life I'd add " and a desire to succeed and the drive to work hard."
Work. Yes, Becca, you're right. That's what we need around here. Whether it's making art or marinating artichokes, we need to help each other take advantage of one of the best things (along with loving) about living on this planet - wherever on this planet - and that's the pursuit of achievement.
Thank you for being here.
The best is yet to be!
Well, their work is done! At least the part about raising the dough to make it happen to make the Brooks House happen again for downtown Brattleboro.
My hat's off to the boys from Mesabi - Bob Stevens, Craig Miskovich, Drew Richards, Pete Richards and Ben Taggard - for their unyielding pursuit of achievement. The construction has started. Our municipal nightmare is over.
And right across Main Street, more work is done. At least the part about raising the consciousness of an organization to step - not stroll, mind you, but step - up to the plate and take over the raison d'etre and running of the River Garden.
My other hat's off to Building a Better Brattleboro for following the herd (one time it was OK to do so). Welcome (soon) to Main Street, Strolling of the Heifers!
Jerry Goldberg is the executive director of the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce. He writes from Brattleboro.