According to BDCC Economic Development Director Laura Sibilia, Wendy Rea Woods will be working out of the Wilmington office. Woods, who lives in Dorset, has a background in nonprofit work. According to a BDCC release, Woods has coordinated communitywide projects with YWCAs and United Ways in Connecticut and Vermont. Her most recent project has been forming a citizens’ committee that serves as liaison between the public, state agencies, and a contracted consultant to study the feasibility of passenger rail restoration to southwestern Vermont. Woods has also been a featured speaker in national and local media on nonviolence and diversity and women’s rights issues in the Middle East.
Woods will be working closely with her fellow flood recovery officer Anthony Summers, a recent graduate of Eastern Washington University’s Master of Urban Planning and Public Administration programs, who will be based at the BDCC’s offices in Brattleboro. Sibilia says they’ll be in the communities and ready to get started soon. “Wendy was here during the flood,” Sibilia said. “And we’ll be sending Anthony around to get acclimated. We’re also planning to bring them to Montpelier to introduce them to the people and agencies they’ll be working with, and get a sense of what help is out there.”
The two flood recovery officers will work with businesses in Windham and Bennington counties, and not just businesses that were physically damaged by flooding during Tropical Storm Irene. Sibilia says the goal is to interact with at least 2,000 businesses in southern Vermont.
For the Deerfield Valley, Sibilia says, the recovery officers will add to efforts already underway as well as extend outreach. “A lot of businesses in Wilmington and Dover have been fortunate, having the EBACs (emergency business assistance coordinators, a program funded by Dover). This will look at long-term strategies.”
In addition to working with businesses, the recovery officers may also work with communities on economic development efforts, including downtown and village revitalization. “There were 15 Vermont downtowns and villages identified as having been severely impacted by flooding,” Sibilia said. “Wilmington and Jacksonville downtowns were pretty significantly impacted.”
Sibilia says she expects the flood recovery officers will be meeting with community organizations and committees working on recovery matters to see what help is needed. “This is about adding capacity,” Sibilia said. “There are a lot of existing groups, and a lot of work has been done by volunteers. These are paid people who can bring consistency and follow through to get things going or to keep things moving along.”
The two positions are funded through a $472,000 federal Economic Development Administration grant administered by the Windham and Bennington regional commissions. The disaster recovery grant is intended to support long-term recovery, spur job creation, leverage private investment, and promote disaster resiliency, according to the BDCC release.
The grant also includes funding for a marketing program. Although initial proposals called for a marketing consultant to work out of the Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce office, Sibilia said the program has grown beyond the capacity of a single person. “We’re hoping to hire a marketing agency in the next month,” she said. “There’s an opportunity for us to leverage what is already happening into something more effective or more sustainable, like an annual plan funded by employers. But they’ll have to have buy-in.”