Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

June 1998

The Morfing of Greater Burlington

For the 15th time, Business Digest of Greater Burlington starts a new volume of issues.

As my grandmother used to say, "You can get used to anything, <pause> even hanging."

Now, what did she mean by that?

While you reflect on that profundity, let me give you a little verbal description of the morfing of Greater Burlington as seen from here.

First off, understand that everything, including me, has changed which is generally acceptable and perfectly natural even if some of the changes ain't what I'd call my first choices.

Big change number one: banking! There used to be tons of them and all were "local." Now there are a ton of ATMs locally, all tied into national circuits. Used to be, if you wanted a mortgage, on the day of the closing a bunch of folks from the bank would drive by the property before giving their official okey-dokey. Now, if your mortgage payment goes to the same address three months in a row it's an oddity. Mortgages used to be uniquely local, now they're a commodity like pork bellies. Used to be, if you needed a commercial loan you called a local banker and described what you needed, scoped out a deal, did the paperwork and got the money. Now, you do a lot more paperwork and lot less describing.

Big change number two: The diminution of big local businesses. McAuliffe, Magrams and Gaynes were big locally owned businesses with loyal followings that any chain, franchise or startup had to contend with. One has to look no further than the current idea that Filenes is the savior of downtown Burlington to get a flash of the difference between then and now. This sort of turnover is especially tough on local media, like this one, that depend on advertising revenues from local businesses. Perhaps that's why I am so excited to have Larry Brett launching our new publication Our Vermont Wedding. The wedding business is perhaps the most local business in the world.

Big change number three: All the lines got moved. According to Islands real estate broker Rod Hill, as the economy of Vermont U.S.A. has grown while Quebec Canada's has shrunk, the Greater Burlington easy commute line has moved north through Grand Isle County from the sandbar to well past the North Hero bridge. Lane Press moved the production line well out of walking distance; Jeff Davis moved the retail line closer to Tafts Corner and Bentonville; and the boathouse moved the attraction line toward the lake. Interconnected computer speeds and security have moved creative, administrative, education and communication lines from front and back offices to bedrooms in the boonies.

Big change number four: Bleeding edge technologies have been totally socialized. Cell phones, voice mail, fax on demand, Touch Tone transactions, email and Internet/working have replaced fountain pens, typewriters and cold calls. We've gone from "What's a fax?" to "What's your fax number?" in less than a decade. Satellite dishes have shrunk from twice the size of the family car to about the size of a pizza pan. Music CDs replaced records and index funds replaced CDs (interest-bearing variety.)

Big change number five: Although I still am not quite sure what a publisher is supposed to do, now, at least, I've got a lot of experience doing it, where before I didn't have any. Occasionally, I'm troubled by the thought that there are more people like me than we'd like to believe. This is now my longest held job, beating my previous personal best by more than three years! My grandmother was right, I am getting used to it.

Among the many things that have changed very little are the vitality of this business community; the energy, wit and creativity of my art director, Rebecca Awodey; the professionalism of my editorial staff, Craig C. Bailey and Edna-the-editor and their extended staff of free lancers; all our loyal advertisers and the dynamite ad reps who serve them; and, you, the most discerning, erudite, literate readers in the world!