Local business owner Constantine Faller spoke Thursday in Alden Library on the importance of sustainable and small local businesses for the Ohio University Arts and Science third annual Wealth and Poverty Week.
Faller, the owner of Athens’ Own and an Athens native, discussed how he became more involved in local businesses and within the community.
It first began when the Ohio University Service Workers Union threatened to go on strike in 1998. As an activist, he realized how financial options were limited in areas like his own backyard.
“I knew with my knowledge and my passion that I could do more than hold a sign on the street,” Faller said.
He said other tangible events that inspired him were the local and global financial devastations of Hurricane Katrina and 9/11. After conducting a current situation analysis, he found ripple effects connecting those tragedies to Athens. The fragility of the global economy, climate change, global resource depletion and the near occasion of a pandemic were all “matters of when” they would affect Athens, not if.
Faller then spoke on his opinion of wealth and what defines it. He described it as something that has to do with power, resources and who has what. The aforementioned rippling effects affect everyone, he said, regardless of what someone does or does not have.
“The result of taking [the effects] in account brought me to two words: sustainability and resilience, the ability of a county to bounce back,” he said.
Faller spoke on how he wants to use the rippling effects, both acute and chronic, to move forward and make better decisions with the future in mind. He shared a video with the audience that discussed the wealth of natural and human resources within Athens and combated the view of the area being completely impoverished.
Faller said the video depicted positive adaptation to perceived adversity. He emphasized taking local opportunities and pushing them forward.
“The opportunities are limitless when you start seeing them,” he said.
Faller then played another video, showing the need to be one with the environment and human instincts commonly overlooked in society. Following the video, he questioned the audience on the word ‘responsibility’ and the responsibility of business owners.
“If we don’t work to build healthy communities, we won’t have consumers,” he said. “It’s our country and our responsibility.”
Facilitating democratic dialogue through what Faller called the “economic web” was another solution he discussed. The economic web is a form of communication between local businesses where they discuss their concerns and long term plans. To him, it is a way to increase resiliency.
“I’m in the wealth and poverty seminar, and we are currently talking about inequality and wealth and poverty all around the world,” Katelyn Bansek, a senior studying special education, said. “It’s nice to just see it here in Athens rather than somewhere else. It’s nice to know that different situations are going on here, too.”
Faller went on to explain an internship program offered to students at Ohio University. The program focuses on building better sustainability and resilience within the Athens region. Information can be found here.