Weathering Leaner Times

Statistics from the Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank, which keeps the most accurate records on the Island real estate market, are the latest and strongest confirmation of the Vineyard’s softening economy.

Real estate transactions on the Vineyard fell last year for the third year in a row. Revenues at the land bank fell for the second consecutive year.

Over the decades the Island economy has expanded and contracted, a miniature cousin of the national economy. Just as good times in the national economy find their way to the Vineyard, so too do the stutters.

For many Vineyarders, the Island’s annual winter economic hibernation is never an easy time, and little immediate relief is in sight. Fortunately most Islanders will have enough money to pay the rent or mortgage, taxes, heating and grocery bills. The less fortunate will turn to charities such as the Island Food Pantry to help survive.

Taking a longer view, two thoughts come to mind.

One is that this is not the best time for Island towns and schools to take on additional spending or costly projects that push property taxes higher.

Another is that the Vineyard’s overreliance on tourism, construction and real estate long has been a concern on the Island, yet remarkably little organized effort has gone into exploring ways of broadening the Island economy.

With business slowing and belts tightening, no time is better than now for the Island to take a close look at the structure of its economy, and find ways to strengthen it.