WILMINGTON -- Members of the Vermont Downtown Action Team told a crowd of residents that one of their aims is to help refuel the recovery process since Tropical Storm Irene.
"We're one of 8 towns (chosen for this)," said Wilmington Economic Development Specialist Gretchen Havreluk. "It's very, very crucial."
On Sept. 11, the Vermont Downtown Action Team held a public input meeting at Memorial Hall in Wilmington as part of a downtown program grant opportunity provided through the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development using U.S. Housing and Urban Development funds awarded to the statewide Downtown Program for rebuilding communities affected by Irene. At the end of the week, the team will issue a report that outlines a plan for the town's recovery.
As the 24th designated downtown to be included in the Vermont Downtown Program, Wilmington was able to secure a portion of the services, which includes consulting from the Downtown Action Team made up of architects, economic development and housing specialists and planners.
Project Manager Tripp Muldrow led discussions and invited business and property owners to sign up for one-on-one consultations scheduled for the following day. On the team's last day in town, Friday, there will be another public meeting at Memorial Hall to present a plan to the town that will include how to effectively manage a "clear marketing effort."
Arnett and Muldrow, a firm that assisted in flood recovery after Hurricane Katrina, was a major component of the Vermont Downtown Action Team.
"By Friday at noon, we hope to present to you a whole berth of ideas, both practical and long-term," said Muldrow. "We want to make sure we're cognizant of the fact that we in no way want to be duplicating work that's been done before."
He was referring to projects outlined in the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies work scope as well as the Conway School of Design Report, which was recently posted on the Wilmington town website.
When asked in meetings with officials from municipalities, then again with people versed in current economic development work in Wilmington, there was a clear focus on the need to fill the vacant buildings along Main Street. The meetings also highlighted a need to find sources of funding to assist with projects that need it.
Havreluk mentioned that there had been talk of potentially opening a sporting goods store and a co-working public space. Hermitage founder Jim Barnes showed interest in assisting with finding the funds for those projects.
Barnes also told Muldrow about his own marketing efforts and how those included mentioning the Deerfield Valley, since the Haystack mountain, where the Hermitage Club is located, is in both Dover and Wilmington.
The team as well as residents talked of the architectural diversity in Wilmington.
"How you capture that on a postcard is a challenge," said local business owner Cliff Duncan.
Marketing and branding for the region requires attention to the four season appeal, residents generally agreed. The downtown village, Haystack mountain and the trails were all referenced in regards to marketing the town's best features.
State Rep. Ann Awarding offered some advice during the public input session: "Don't ignore the arts community as an economic development driver."
Muldrow asked the audience if one thing could be wiped away or something appear with a wave of a magic wand, what would it be?
One said she wanted to see a strong business come that would hire young people. Another wanted a circular walking route that connects the new footbridge to the Valley Trail and the downtown village.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or email@example.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.