Here's the body of the column:
National Newspaper Association President Cheryl Kaechele, publisher of the Allegan County (MI) News, spoke out this week in support of a new law requiring reconsideration of the closing of local auto dealerships that may have been shut down by General Motors and Chrysler Corporation without consideration of the value of the dealers in rural and small town America.
In Glenwood, we are lucky to have Schwieters Chevrolet still doing a good business here. The local dealership was not one of the unlucky dealerships that were closed during the financial crisis of the past year. The entire community and region should be thankful for that.
Apparently there was a new arbitration process decreed by Congress in late December as it directed two of the Big Three auto makers that received federal bailout dollars to reconsider the status of some 3,000 auto dealerships closed in 2009. President Obama signed the law, embodied in the massive federal appropriations bill HR 3288, on Dec. 17. The law permits dealerships to take the closure to arbitration.
Many communities in mostly rural areas felt the impact of the closings on their own businesses, but they also affected local newspapers who rely on those businesses to use their pages to market and sell cars.
"Locally-owned auto dealers also are historically major contributors to community life in America's small towns, supporting youth sports, civic organizations and local commerce," Kaechele wrote in her commentary about the new arbitration bill. "We do have the impression from our NNA member newspapers' reactions that more rural and small town dealers were closed than in larger cities. We want the arbitration panels to be aware of the role the dealers play in American communities."
"A dealership, especially in smaller towns, may be one of the largest employers in town; may be the largest sales tax payer in town; is likely one of the largest property tax payers in town; and, as already mentioned, supports civic/sports/community organizations and activities," said NNA Executive Director Brian Steffens "Their elimination will affect schools and town or county services. Making folks go 30, 40 or 100 miles away for service is not only a burden on the vehicle owner, but moving economic collateral out of one town over to another."
We certainly agree. Small communities get ravaged by a number of economic factors coming together each year. Auto dealerships are one piece of the puzzle. Obviously, we are lucky to still have Schwieters in Glenwood, and we can help keep them, and all our remaining businesses, by making sure we purchase goods and service from them.
The Pope County area features a lot of very vibrant and strong businesses, and it is up to us to keep them that way. Each time we lose a business, the impact isn't simply on consumer choices at the local level. We lose tax dollars for our cities, schools and county, and we lose major contributors to the many fundraisers and activities at our schools, churches and civic organizations.