Wednesday December 19, 2012

DOVER -- A new marketing initiative was introduced last week that business owners find will be useful to the community.

"The intent is for visitors and residents alike who travel along main roads to not see dilapidated buildings or things that need repair," said Economic Development Director Ken Black. "The intent is not to fix up your house."

Black and his assistant, Linda Anelli, explained the guidelines of the Do-It Marketing program to about seven business owners and one general contractor in the town office.

The program is for future projects only and it offers rebates between $500 and $2,500 to business owners or lessees that want to improve exterior aesthetics such as fixing store fronts, getting better signs and putting in flowers. One idea was to put down gravel in the Mountain Park Plaza.

The program will begin on Jan. 1, 2013 and is approved for the fiscal year. It has been proposed to the Selectboard for next fiscal year, but has not yet been approved.

A total of $25,000 is available for businesses in Dover who want to make these aesthetic improvements. No applications will be accepted after June 30 and all work must be completed by Oct. 31, 2013.

It will be on a first-come, first-served basis. No up-front money will be given. It is strictly a rebate program and payment will be made upon showing of the receipt of the invoice and a physical inspection of the work.

"The money could get allocated very quickly so I would suggest that if you intend on doing this, you think about doing it early.


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Only year-round businesses in Dover, with valid tax identification and registration, are eligible. A business can only apply once in the fiscal year. Multi-related businesses are considered one business.

"If you operate an inn and a restaurant and deli in the back its not considered three businesses -- it’s one," said Black.

At 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 1, applications, which must include estimate for labor as well as supplies, will be accepted.

If the money is all accounted for, the program directors will keep a list of applications in case some of the money frees up. The order of applicants will be told to the business owners.

"I would encourage sending it in electronically," said Black.

"I’m not camping out overnight," joked First Trax Sports owner Mark Wallace.

Some questions and concerns were difficult to answer for Black, especially those concerned with the committee having a bunch of applications coming in around the same exact time and all the money being accounted for within the first day.

"So when you have $30,000 worth of apps on the first, then how are you going to determine?" asked Adam Levine, owner of several buildings that include the Valley View Saloon.

"Date and time," said Linda Anelli. "So we can accurately tell."

"Mine are going to be under your door so they’ll be here at 12:01. There could easily be $100,000 (in applications) from the people here tonight."

An advertising program called Dover Advertising Support Program, that was a similar initiative but focused on advertising campaigns rather than improving visibility for local businesses, has proven to be not as successful, in terms of participation, as the town’s economic specialists and business owners had thought it would be.

Black referenced it in regard to Levine’s question.

"I think this is very different," said Wallace. "I applaud you guys for coming up with this idea. The dollar figure is really low but you got to start somewhere. I do believe this is something that this community will grasp hold of because there is a lot of things out there that we as property owners can’t afford. Here’s 2,500 bucks that I can spend in a heartbeat to help our plaza. So I’m hoping this pilot program takes off so next year it’s not $25,000 -- it’s $50,000."

Linda Anelli told the back story of the project. Black and Anelli have watched other communities come up with similar programs that help business owners and enhance economic development.

"We hope we spend it all on January 1st but we said that with the advertising," said Black.

It was mentioned that the Do-It Marketing program could also help promote other local businesses like contractors or painters if business owners decide to hire local workers.

"You don’t have to, though," said Black.

Businesses who are accepted into the program must display a sign that will promote the economic development committee in the town, possibly on a window or the ground. It hasn’t been decided exactly where, but it is meant to get other businesses to see it and encourage others to apply for it.

Business owners and the economic development specialists thought the initiative could send a message to the Selectboard that the program is worthwhile if it works as good as it sounds.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.