Editorial: Adapting to new ways

Rolling Still of Taos converted its whiskey-making facility into a hand-sanitizer venture during the pandemic - providing both a public service and a new potential money maker. 

Taos County is full of creative people. In the age of a novel coronavirus pandemic, that creativity has come to the fore, not just in new ways of hosting art and music shows, but in revamped businesses and new ways to use materials.

It is manifesting an entrepreneurial spirit that is key to the region developing different kinds of jobs and economies – ones that are less heavily dependent on tourism. It is this entrepreneurial spirit that should be fostered, encouraged and supported – whether it is in local food-growing endeavors, light manufacturing or digital opportunities. Or even a different kind of service industry, such as helping the growing number of seniors.

This is nothing against tourism. It remains a big economic force in Taos and will always be important. But just like mining, sheepherding and logging – once big economic drivers in the county – tourism is too easily upended by the whims of nature and the economy. Drought can increase fire risk, prompting the Forest Service to shut down public land access so outdoor recreation suffers and rivers to dry up so badly that rafting companies can't operate.

Or a minuscule virus can simply upend the whole tourism and service industry system.

The disruptions caused by COVID-19 and the restrictions imposed to contain the pandemic have a silver lining. They've forced a lot of people to think out of the box - from educators to restaurant owners. The situation has forced everyone to adapt in ways they might never have thought of without the virus. And some of those adaptations might be worth keeping around even after COVID is contained.

Take Rolling Still. When the distillery couldn't sell its liquor, it simply retooled and started selling hand sanitizer - that was both a community benefit and a new product for the distillery to sell.

Restaurants adapted to restrictions on indoor dining by expanding patio service. Some collaborated with neighboring businesses to use sidewalk space. Others used their parking lots. Outdoor service has its own challenges, but it is lovely to drive around town and see people out enjoying a meal and some socially distanced company in beautiful summer weather. It lends a European café-style feel to Taos. The expanded patio dining seems like an idea worth keeping during good weather even once indoor service is allowed again.

Some of the county's local governments, businesses and nonprofits collaborated to catalog resources and figure out unmet needs in our communities. The Enchanted Circle-Community Organizations Active in Disaster created a mutual aid hub where people can list needs and volunteers can respond to help out. Check it out at ecmutualaidhub.org.

This kind of collaboration is a good idea to continue for other times, not just a pandemic.

The Taos Entrepreneurial Network continues to host meetups, virtually, after the pandemic hit. The nonprofit's goal is to help foster new businesses "one entrepreneur at a time." It is a place where people with new ideas can meet, collaborate and get some valuable free coaching on how to proceed.

Then there's the shed in Questa built with crushed plastic. It's a whole different way to think about recycling the mountain of plastic modern society produces. Check out the story this week about Taos Initiative for Life Together (TiLT) and its work with Taos architect Doug Eichelberger on this new building method.

Do you know of an entrepreneur who has found a new way to do things or launched a new business during the pandemic? Let the Taos News know. Email editor@taosnews.com.

And keep those great ideas going.

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