BRATTLEBORO -- Over the past year and a half Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce Director Jerry Goldberg has not made any excuses for the town.
Even though downtown Brattleboro witnessed a major fire, an historic flood, as well an ongoing economic recession, over the past 15 months Goldberg continued to make the case that if you were traveling through southeastern Vermont, then it was worth your while to stop in and visit.
Now, Goldberg’s voice will grow a little louder and a little stronger after the chamber was awarded a Rural Business Enterprise Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The $39,800 grant will help fund the chamber’s activities in the coming year, Goldberg said, and will allow the group to continue working closely with Building a Better Brattleboro, the downtown development group that won a similar USDA grant last year.
"There is already a lot of work that has begun, and it would have been a shame to have to stop it because we lost our funding," Goldberg said about the collaboration with BaBB. "It’s very gratifying that USDA agreed that this work was worthwhile and saw fit to continue funding it for another year."
USDA’s Rural Business Enterprise Grant program helps fund projects that finance and facilitate development of small and emerging rural businesses.
RBEG grants generally range from $10,000 to $500,000 and go toward small rural businesses that employ 50
Goldberg said the grant money will be used to continue the chamber’s "One and Only Brattleboro" campaign, which appeals to tourists and individuals and businesses that are considering moving to the region.
The funding will also support the chamber’s ongoing drive to cluster businesses together and encourage business owners to promote similar shops and restaurants to their customers as they leave.
Goldberg said a visitor might come to Brattleboro to visit his favorite shop without taking the time to explore similar businesses in the area.
He said by promoting the entire region, tourists are more likely to return after discovering similar places to visit.
Building a Better Brattleboro Executive Director Andrea Livermore said last year’s grant that went to BaBB allowed the two groups to work together, especially during the challenging times following the Brooks House fire and the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
As the town continues to rebuild, Livermore said the federal funding will help the business groups support downtown merchants.
"Since the chamber and BaBB work closely together, often pretty seamlessly, on promoting our downtown businesses and, indeed, all the corridors that lead into town, we will be able to keep up the momentum we generated last year," she said. "Jerry and I have been pretty lock-step in this effort and will continue to be. This is a win-win, for sure."
The federal grant comes as the chamber begins its push toward the important holiday gift season.
With the busy summer months ahead, and then foliage, Goldberg said the USDA grant gives the chamber a little breathing room to make sure it is ready to support businesses as the rest of the town rebounds from the Brooks House fire and the flooding.
"This is going to allow us to spend the money we need to spend to get our message out there," Goldberg said. "There is still a lot going on behind the scenes and businesses are still rebuilding after the flood. Brattleboro is still not all she can be, but we still have a lot to offer. This grant allows us to go further and deeper with our message."
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 279