Opinion » Maxed Out

The importance of keeping it local



There's a fine line — at least in this community — between being a place where the locals shop and a place where the locals don't shop any more. The corporate bunglers of Buy-Low Foods, one of the tentacles of Jimmy Pattison's food empire, are dancing dangerously along that line. Nesters may be the ultimate victim.

Why? Because Buy-Low is a foreign corporation. Not foreign in the sense of offshore, foreign in the sense they're not of this community; they're outsiders. So why are they playing chicken with their future prosperity? Because despite the truthiness of the notion that corporations are people, they're not. They're collections of people, many of whom leave their humanity at home when they head off to work, forced by the terms of their employment to become drones they often can barely relate to themselves.

They are, in a very real sense, the Borg. They think — and I use the word loosely — in lockstep, if at all. They speak only when the words they say have been run through the PR and legal sanitizer, a process that strips language of any of its rich meaning and grinds words into the language equivalent of tainted hamburger, all in an attempt to hone and polish the "brand," puzzle the public and obfuscate any responsibility.

So what's happened? Despite its start in this community as a "mom & pop" store, growing up alongside Whistler as it morphed from regional ski town to international mountain resort, Nesters isn't that place any more. The place where locals shop isn't a place locals own. It's a cog in the Buy Low grocery machine.

There's nothing wrong with that. Ironically, it's one of the truisms and tragedies of Whistler's success. As the arc of our development has taken us through the entrepreneurial startup phase into a mature business, the people who rolled the dice and started retail businesses and restaurants are faced with a difficult economic reality. While they have a valuable business, they can't, in many cases, get their money out of it because no entrepreneur can pay them the true value of the business and grow it enough to make an economic return on their investment.

A parallel can be drawn to many of Whistler's early arrivals. If they got here in, say, the 1970s and were lucky enough to pull together the money for a residential lot and use some sweat equity to build their home, it's now worth enough that the likelihood they're going to sell it to someone like themselves is slim to none. When they're ready to leave, which many of them already have, they'll sell to someone looking to buy a second home, vacation home or retirement home, someone who's made their wealth outside this town and may, or may not, ever really call this place home.