For each challenge presented to us in 2020, I am convinced that 2021 will provide an opportunity. One year ago today, none of us could have imagined the struggles, worries and loss that we were about to experience. But today I think it’s clear that we are poised to make a comeback. And it’s already starting here in Franklin County.
Last March, schools, stores, restaurants and entertainment venues were abruptly forced to close down or drastically change their operations. We thought this might last a few weeks, but eventually the reality hit that we were in for a much longer haul.
That’s when the creativity started. It was amazing to see how Franklin County businesses worked together to support each other. I’m delighted to share two of my favorite examples.
Down a short alley in downtown Greenfield is an amazing little Mexican joint. Mesa Verde has delicious food, including a killer buffalo chicken burrito and the best margaritas around. But its true treasure is owner Amy McMahan.
Amy is a fierce fighter for local businesses and the ultimate enthusiast about downtown Greenfield and Franklin County. Her business quickly made the switch to exclusively take-out, and it was doing a brisk business.
But Amy is not one to look after just herself. She knew other local restaurants were struggling. She used the popularity of her business to help sell products from other Greenfield restaurants. She offered beer from the People’s Pint, and pizza kits and salad from Magpie.
Amy also used her wholesale buying power to purchase bulk flour and yeast and assembling focaccia kits that were sold for $5 with all proceeds to benefit Greenfield Community College. Amy’s commitment to her hometown was further deepened by the challenges of COVID-19.
And then there were two larger businesses in Franklin County that joined forces in a truly unique way to fix a much significant pandemic related problem.
Bete Fog Nozzle is a manufacturer in Greenfield that specializes in, well, nozzles. It is a global leader in spray technology, and its products include fog and misting nozzles, tank washing nozzles, material injection nozzles, and custom spray nozzles. Bete president Tom Fitch heard from his friend Pam Reipold, owner of Travel Kuz, a Franklin County bus transportation company, that she needed to devise a way to quickly and completely sanitize her large fleet of school buses.
After some engineering and design work, the FastPASS Bus Disinfecting System was born. This small, inexpensive, easy to use and remarkably effective system can disinfect an entire school bus in a matter of minutes.
I had the good fortune of watching a demonstration of the system over the summer and it was very impressive. A small generator is turned on, a hose is hooked from a disinfectant canister to a small nozzle system in the bus and within minutes the whole bus fills with a fog of a safe disinfectant that covers every surface. This system eliminates the need for personnel to disinfect bus surfaces, which means it could be done faster and more effectively. Brilliant.
Franklin County has the good fortune of relying on well-established businesses like Yankee Candle Co. and strong financial institutions like Greenfield Savings and Greenfield Cooperative banks. We are also rich in small businesses and artisans and performance venues.
But who would have thought that in the midst of a global pandemic we would have the good fortune of attracting another powerhouse business? In October, it was announced that Tree House Brewing Co. would be relocating to the former Channing Bete building in Deerfield. This is a game changer.
Tree House is a most welcome addition with a strong tradition of real community engagement and collaboration with other businesses, not to mention excellent beer. We look forward to working with Tree House as it relocates to Franklin County.
We look to 2021 with a renewed enthusiasm for the special things that Franklin County has always offered but that 2020 taught us to appreciate. We cherish our beautiful open spaces, our fresh air, our great outdoor recreation opportunities, our affordable homes, our unique businesses and our terrific employment opportunities.
Diana M. Szynal is executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about the chamber and its work, go online to franklincc.org.