As a lifelong resident of the Monadnock Region and current Keene State College student, I’ve seen a lot of changes in my community over the past 20 years. This is especially true with the businesses in Keene. This city has a delicate balance of many large chain businesses and small, locally-owned places.
The college participates in the city’s economy by both working and purchasing from both the small and large stores.
The Colony Mill, for example, used to be full of local businesses and vendors. Some of my favorite memories of growing up were there, especially at the Toadstool Bookstore. I would park my bike and read for hours.
Now, it’s vacant, with plans to build more apartment complexes. Target, Price Chopper and the surrounding businesses were a swamp land until about 10 years ago. Today, it’s one of the biggest shopping centers in the area. Many new chain stores have sprouted up in paved plazas, and many businesses that once thrived in the Colony Mill or downtown Keene have closed. Keene State College has had a transformative few years, but so has Keene itself.
Because I’m both a student and a local resident, I have an interesting perspective on how KSC students interact with the businesses in the area. Many students would rather get a ride from a friend to go to Chipotle or Panera then find local restaurants within walking distance with the same quality food, like Odelay or The Works.
Also, students who work at chain stores outside of campus and downtown are more likely to be paid more by the hour. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, businesses with less than 50 employees pay 62% of the wages that large companies do.
That being said, local businesses also are hiring energetic college students, even if they are in smaller numbers. This is also convenient for those of us who don’t drive (like me) and may not be able to get from campus to shopping centers on the other side of town. Being able to walk to a local business saves money on car expenses.
The KSC campus area and the surrounding small businesses have a symbiotic relationship. The businesses rely on KSC students to eat at their restaurants, get tattoos at their studios and buy their screen printed t-shirts.
We, the students, rely on the businesses for employment opportunities, internships and gift certificates for raffles.
It’s important to remember that Keene community members need students to support them just like they support us.
According to a report from Fiscal Year 2012 called, “Keene State College’s Economic Impact on the City of Keene and Cheshire County,” KSC brings over a 150 million dollars to Keene’s economy, especially the local businesses. Student spending in the city totalled 32 million dollars in 2011. KSC also contributes to the local economy with volunteer work and philanthropic fundraisers.
For example, student organizations raise money for the Cheshire Medical Center and the Keene Community Kitchen. Keene’s economy can thrive because of our student body.
I’ve lived in the Monadnock Region since I was born, and moved from Swanzey to Keene when I was nine-years-old. I transferred to KSC after my first semester of college because I wanted to come home to the community I love.
All businesses employ and benefit from the purchasing power KSC students, but small businesses benefit even more because of the community members who have been here in Keene State College’s backyard since 1909.
Abby Shepherd can be contacted at email@example.com