BRATTLEBORO -- A Windham County business development group has been awarded a $75,000 grant as it tries to complete a countywide economic development strategy.
Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, or SeVEDS, won the U.S. Department of Commerce grant as it prepares for its first public information meeting, planned for Sept. 13 in Bellows Falls.
Project Director Laura Sibilia said the federal grant came at a crucial time as the group begins to seek support from Windham County towns for its work.
"This was great news," Sibilia said. "We're really pleased the grant came through at this time. It will allow us to meet with towns throughout the region and hopefully get everyone on the same page as we build on the work SeVEDS has already done."
SeVEDS, a nonprofit arm of Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, was started in 2007 to improve broadband and cell service in the region.
The group found that it was not better communication capacity, but a regionwide economic development plan, that was needed to help businesses in Windham County.
SeVEDs is working on developing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, which is a federally recognized plan that allows groups to apply for further economic assistance to promote business and growth.
The meeting in Bellows Falls is planned for Sept. 13, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Bellows Falls Opera House.
SeVEDS Chairwoman Lisa Sullivan said
"A key component of our fiscal year 2013 plan is to make significant progress towards completing the Windham Region CEDS," she said. "Now that we have this notification, we'll be able to talk in more concrete terms about our process, time frames and public involvement."
SeVEDS came before the Brattleboro Selectboard earlier this year to ask for $50,000 in support.
The board gave it $25,000, with a charge to get another $25,000 from the other towns in the county.
If that money comes through, Brattleboro said it would match it with an additional $25,000.
Sibilia said the federal grant, and the meeting in Bellows Falls, will help SeVEDS make its case as it prepares to meet independently with other Selectboards and town residents around Windham County.
Sibilia said she expects many towns will put the funding request on Town Meeting Day ballots in March.
"We are looking forward to talking to people about the work we've already done, and about our plan for the coming year," Sibilia said. "We are doing this for all of the towns in Windham County and we want to keep moving forward."