By Bob Griffin, Jr.
The recent news that hundreds of Chrysler and General Motors dealerships will close is a painful blow to many communities across Michigan.
As a family owned beer distributor that has served northern Michigan for decades, we are extremely saddened by this terrible news. We deeply feel the pain every time a local business suffers, struggles or closes – and local auto dealerships are about as homegrown of a business as they come.
Auto dealerships are one of us. They and their employees often reflect the communities in which they live. In many ways, they represent every local business. When they close, the entire community will feel the pain and the consequences.
Many dealerships have been in our communities for years, even generations, providing quality service and products, while giving back to local families. Owners of dealerships can often be found at community fundraisers, leading Habitat for Humanity projects, helping their neighbors from all walks of life, spearheading Chamber of Commerce and Kiwanis projects, and spending every waking moment working to make their communities better.
Their employees are some of the hardest working folks around. Together, they coach Little League and volunteer in schools and churches. They spend locally and contribute to the regional economy, helping everything from mom-and-pop stores to small businesses that provide lawn service. They raise their kids in their communities. They repair vehicles for their neighbors. They donate time, equipment and money to local events.
Our family-owned business has partnered with many of these dealerships over the years, on a whole host of community events. We help sponsor golf fundraisers and charity auctions together. We create local good-paying jobs and support each other across the board.
Auto dealerships, as much as any local business, exist to serve the community. Now, they are closing their doors and laying off hundreds of good, hardworking people – our neighbors – through no fault of their own. While our hearts go out to the families who will be hit hard by these closings, all of us – the community and local businesses – will also feel the pain.
As a nation, we must face the economic downturn head on – and that’s why we must do even more now to support local family businesses. Every community must stand together in these tough times. Support the auto dealer. But also support local restaurants, local furniture stores, local butchers, local bakeries, local groceries and retailers, and yes, even, the local beer distributor. We urge everyone to think local and spend local. That includes everyday consumers, regular shoppers and elected leaders and policymakers at every level, who are responsible for making decisions that can directly impact local workers and the families they support.
Local businesses mean local jobs. Local businesses help keep our neighbors employed and the community strong. By going local and supporting local businesses, we can minimize the pain in our communities and survive these challenging times.
Bob Griffin Jr., is general manager of Griffin Beverage Co., a family owned business based in West Branch serving northern Michigan.