Businesses of Rappahannock surveyed its 188 members in June and asked two questions:
• What is the biggest challenge in sustaining your business?
• Does the local business community need to play a bigger role in shaping Rappahannock’s future?
Fifty people, or 26.6 percent of the members, responded.
Many of the answers to the first question were similar. Numerous business owners identified their biggest challenges as the difficulty of finding and keeping skilled or reliable workers, inadequate cell phone and broadband service, not enough cooperation among local businesses, and a dwindling flow of customers from outside the area.
“Having Rappahannock County noticed,” wrote Little Washington Winery owner Carl Henrickson.
Responses to the second question were more varied. Seven owners who responded felt the business community should not be involved in shaping the county’s future. But more suggested ways local businesses could play a more active role. Here’s a sampling of those responses:
- “Collaborate more between businesses on (creating) getaway packages. More marketing of Rappahannock to nearby counties.” – Tina Marchione, Magnolia Vineyards and Winery
- “We need an inventory of hay suppliers and a way to find hard-working farm help. There is NO place to go to find either of these here.” – Marian Bragg, Freestate Llamas
- “We need to make sure we get good broadband services in the county. This affects schools and the future generation. It is also a safety factor for the elderly …” — Jana Froeling, Full Circle Equine Services
- “Do we want Rappahannock County to have more ‘business’ emphasis and presence? Not sure how this will happen unless the businesses are aligned with the RC’s agricultural bent.” — Sandra Brannock, Expert Kitchen Designs
- “Businesses, by their very existence, already play a large role in shaping the future. They are determining what is available, who comes here, how easy it is to live here etc.”— Anonymous
- “Find a way to promote civility in the county and continue to promote a vibrant community.” — Jim Manwaring, cattle rancher
- “Find ways to hire more locals … and to help with marketing the county to attract more visitors.” — Joyce Harman, Old Rag Photo and Harmany Equine
- “The business community should have at least one seat at the table in decision-making and governance.” — Robert Archer, Happy Camper Equipment Co.
- “Perhaps helping to train and match up people with local jobs.” — Aleta Gadino, Gadino Cellars Vineyard & Winery
- “Looking at emerging opportunities with an eye toward collaborating with local colleagues will make a profound difference. Right now, most businesses view opportunities for their specific business alone — a silo mindset.” — Anonymous
- “I feel that many of our for-profit businesses focus on catering to the sector of the public — both residents and tourists — that are wealthy. I find it discouraging that food/grocery/restaurant/B&B prices are beyond a level many of our residents can afford.” — Anne Williams, Mountainside Physical Therapy and Dance, Hazel River Arts and Antiques
Part 1 (June 28): Rappahannock is facing an economic transition. But it has a long history of dealing with changes brought by forces beyond the county line.
Part 2 (July 12): Farming in Rappahannock is going through a transition. What challenges does the community face in holding on to its agricultural core?
Part 3 (July 26): What role might the county’s business community play in its future? And, can boosting tourism make a difference in generating revenue and creating jobs?
The Rappahannock Hustle (Aug. 2): The challenges facing people under 40 in Rappahannock and why, despite the hurdles, some are choosing to come here or are returning, mimicking a trend seen in small towns across the United States.
Part 4 (Aug. 9): What are other rural communities doing to adjust to the same demographic and economic changes? Could any of those strategies work here?