Brian Hamilton: Strength in (small) numbers | TheUnion.com

Brian Hamilton: Strength in (small) numbers

Brian Hamilton

Editing a story in last week’s Sierra Sun that reported on the reopening of Truckee’s seasonal warming shelter, the director’s words stuck with me.

“I’m so grateful our community takes care of each other.”

Same here. Quite literally, same here.

No doubt, we’ve got our issues. But when times turn tough, one thing the western end of Nevada County does very well is community.

… when times turn tough, one thing the western end of Nevada County does very well is community.

And that’s not by accident, but intention of those who live here.

Take Jesse Locks for example. Hearing the horror stories of how area restaurants were weathering the brutal blows to their bottom line each time PG&E pulled the plug on their power, Jesse’s hometown was hurting and she had to do something.

“That’s a lot of families, and frankly a lot of young people, who find it really tough trying to make a go of it living in Nevada County,” she said. “And this is just another major hurdle put in their way.”

“But it’s not like I could look at their books and give them financial advice.”

She could, though, pull people together. She picked up the phone and called the Chambers of Commerce, the downtown association, the ERC — even area banks — to see what could be done for our business owners. Quickly they had a plan, and a poster — thanks to Todd Wahoske — in solidarity and support for small business operations struggling with impact of the shutoffs, particularly our restaurants.

“Let’s Go Out Tonight!” was launched as an effort to encourage our citizens to spend money at local businesses each Wednesday night in the wake of slow- or no-business days during PG&E power shutoffs. And last Wednesday’s “will they or won’t they” shutoff dilemma didn’t help, as restaurants endured another round — either hurrying up dinner preparations after learning the power would stay on or bag another night’s work and revenue after another 24 hours of uncertainty.

The full impacts of these shutoffs might not yet be known, but the way they affected our schools, government services, nonprofits and businesses was profound. Not only being unable to open their doors to potential revenue, some business lost more money to spoilage and employees who could not work have a harder time paying their own rent — which means landlords likely have a tough time making mortgage payments. And the whole downward spiral starts again with each 48-hour notification of a potential power shutoff.

The Let’s Go Out Tonight! Wednesday event will continue through the holidays, and a Shop Local campaign has been recently revived to help local business in light of the thousands — if not tens of thousands — in losses. Judith Berliner of Full Circle Press donated and designed decals that get straight to point “Put your (money) where your (heart) is … Shop Local.”

Folks will soon see this reminder pop up all around western county, including the front page of this newspaper, hoping to spur people to spend their dollars with our local merchants whenever and wherever possible.

“I have a deep appreciation and love for the place I call home, my hometown,” Locks said. “We fight with each other, but when it comes to how are we going to do this, we come together. … and that’s something that doesn’t often exist in a lot of places.”

That’s true, and so is the high level of engagement of our people here in western county. When trouble arises we tend to quickly set aside what divides us, particularly politics, and get to work on how to help. We saw that with Robinson’s Enterprises practically filling up all of western county — including the hospital’s generators — during the first shutoff. We saw that with the collaboration and teamwork of our firefighters during the Dorsey blaze, which they quickly contained despite being without air support due to high winds and largely thanks to a dozer being on site and cutting fire line within eight minutes of being reported. “A miracle,” is how Gras Valley City Manager Tim Kiser described it.

We also saw this during a press conference earlier this month announcing the Let’s Go Out Tonight! campaign, when many of our elected officials on hand expressed such a notion.

“When you think about the economic multiplier effect of this, this is a huge impact, and not just on the restaurants and the cafes themselves, but on their employees as well,” said Nevada City Mayor Reinette Senum, saying locally owned small business are the “backbone” of this economy. “They have been greatly affected, and now more than ever this is our call to assist them.”

Nevada County Supervisor Dan Miller, a former business owner himself, followed Senum’s speech by expanding on the importance of these small businesses to the community’s bottom line, saying a survey showed that a two-day shutoff can amount to $5,000-$10,000 in lost business.

“Reinette said that businesses that are locally owned are the backbone of our community, but they’re also the backbone of our local nonprofits, Miller said. “Local businesses support nonprofits in Nevada County, and if they can’t open their doors and they can’t make the sales, everyone is going to feel the pain. And we don’t want our nonprofits to suffer.”

In the weeks ahead, as our local businesses look to recover from an October that for many meant no power for nearly one-third of the month, our tightly connected community will only benefit from those who come together to show support by spending their dollars at home and shopping locally.

“This event that occurred in our community, while horrible and tragic — things like these that happen — it brings us together,” said Grass Valley Mayor Lisa Swarthout, “and shows the reason why people want to live here.”

It also shows the real strength of a small town.

And it’s why I, too, am so grateful to live in a community that takes care of each other.

To contact Editor Brian Hamilton email bhamilton@theunion.com or call 530-477-4249.


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