The chamber is applying for the grant as part of a long-term recovery process plan initiated by FEMA in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, with the goal of creating a comprehensive marketing strategy for the valley. Chamber president Adam Grinold presented a draft of the grant application to the board that mapped out a three-pronged project designed to develop a brand for the valley, increase tourism, and enhance the experience of visitors and residents.
The plan includes three components: Marketing research of demographics and branding needs; implementation of a marketing campaign; and introduction of tourism resources and infrastructure to the local community.
The chamber is requesting an $80,000 grant allocation from the USDA to help fund a total budget of $175,000. The chamber’s application provided a comprehensive look at the steady decline of the local economy, as well as a list of factors that have contributed to this including a decrease in the local younger population, a limited amount of new investment in the area, Tropical Storm Irene, and the dismal snow-season that followed.
The plan also states that the marketing strategy will increase tourism in the valley and create “a subsequent growth of local businesses in the valley, and therefore jobs.”
Grinold said the chamber would seek matching funds from towns, local businesses, and the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing.
The selectboard also discussed setting a wastewater capacity reserve for future growth in downtown Wilmington as part of the application process for Downtown Designation as presented by Gretchen Havreluk and John Gannon. The board voted to go into a meeting of the sewer commissioners and voted to approve an extra 4,000 gallons per day to accommodate an increase in business growth in the downtown area.
Selectboard member Susan Haughwout also made a motion to have the board support a multiyear commitment of municipal monies to cover a portion of the Wilmington Works annual operating budget. Haughwout said the motion would cover funding and resource requirements for the group, and selectboard chair Tom Consolino pointed out that the move was a show of long-term support without a specific financial amount being set.
The board also discussed options for usage of the 1% option tax fund, using ideas each board member had sent to town manager Scott Murphy.
The board hopes to develop a short list of potential projects defined as economic and community development for Town Meeting Day. Board member James Burke focused on researching better strategies for job creation with one of his suggestions. “We are a state that needs to bring in jobs, whether it be small or large industry. To better the community we need to better the job status. If we can begin to entice businesses to come here with good jobs, permanent jobs with benefits, we create more homeowners, and the more taxpayers we have, the lower the tax rate.”
Consolino made a strong statement, saying the board should act on using the $70,000 to $80,000 available. “It’s incumbent on this board to come up with ideas of how to spend option tax money moving forward, not just suggestions, not just examples,” said Consolino. “I think it’s time for us to take some action, and set up some programs and say ‘Here voters, here is what we’re going to do,’ instead of just kicking the can down the road.”
Selectboard member Diane Chapman echoed Consolino’s sentiment as well. “People have come to me and said ‘We’ve all worked so hard on this and nothing’s been done.’ Now is the time to look through this and say OK, we can do this. We can’t do it all at once, but we can pick out some projects.’”
Haughwout encouraged the board to both use the immediate funds, and set up a structure for future funds to be used.
Grinold also asked the board to approve making Wilmington’s section of Route 100 a part of the Scenic Route 100 Byway, which the board unanimously approved.