Dashboard declared dead again
DOVER - At the Dover Selectboard’s Tuesday meeting, Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce Director Eric Durocher said the economic dashboard is no longer being pursued. The statement comes months after business owners in the valley urged the committee to find a way to make the software work.
The dashboard is custom-made software intended to help the bi-town economic development committee aggregate data to measure the impact of its digital marketing campaigns. The intention was for owners of restaurants, retail locations, and inns to input data about their sales over time. The bi-town committee planned to use that data to see whether upticks in sales were associated with upticks in digital marketing pushes. However, the bi-town committee has said it had difficulty garnering participation from business owners.
In the fall, then-chamber director Sharon Cunningham told the Wilmington Selectboard that the dashboard had failed due to a lack of interest on the part of the business community. At a subsequent Dover Selectboard meeting, inn owner Jim Desrochers said the characterization of the business community was unfair, and that in his view, it had been the committee’s lack of follow-through that had led to the dashboard’s failure. He urged Cunningham to find a way to engage business owners and make the dashboard successful.
A few weeks later, Dover Economic Development Director Steve Neratko said the committee was working to revive a push toward participation and was considering a “carrot and stick” approach to garnering participation. At the time, Neratko said the “carrot” would be free advertising opportunities, and the “stick” would be that businesses that did not participate could not access 1% economic development funds in the towns.
On Tuesday, Durocher said that Wilmington made participation a requirement for their recent facade grant program, and that business owners had agreed to it.
“They put in their information for a few weeks, and then they stopped,” said Durocher.
Neratko said he’d added it as a requirement on the application for Dover’s Do-It program. “They do claim that they’re willing to put in the data,” said Neratko. “We’ll see what the response rate is.”
Durocher said “the horse had been beat.”
“I understand the work done by the committee to get it to take off,” said Durocher. “There was talk of let’s add incentives — the carrot was already on the stick. The carrot is the (bi-town) marketing that gets people into the valley. It’s just that it’s not translating.”
Durocher said that he was aware of several contributing factors to the lack of participation from business owners, including concerns over the confidentiality of the data shared, feeling like the work of entering the data was homework, and irritation about weekly reminder emails.
“They’re getting a reminder that they’re 126 weeks behind on entering data,” said Durocher. “If we were going to pull this out of the mud, we’d have to start fresh. Because as of right now, if I’m a business owner and log in and see I’m 126 weeks behind, I’m gong to log out and never log back in.”
Dover Selectboard Chair Josh Cohen asked Durocher if the problem may lie in a business community that is not technologically-minded.