Like many other towns large and small across the country, Brattleboro has had more than its share of difficulties these past few years.
The Great Recession forced many long-time businesses to shutter their doors. Those that managed to survive the economic downturn took another big hit when Tropical Storm Irene flooded them out, and many of them are still struggling to recover. And, of course, there was the Brooks House fire and the rippled effect that has had on the town. Now we have a major decision looming on a proposed $14.6-million upgrade to the town’s police and fire facilities, and how to pay for it.
It’s enough to give one serious pause about the future prospects for our town. But fortunately Brattleboro is blessed with proactive leaders in both the public and private sector who are working hard to develop long-term solutions to ensure the vitality of the town and the entire region.
The Selectboard and town officials have already started discussions on Brattleboro’s long-term financial health. They’re trying to come up with creative ways to pay for the police-fire upgrades and still have enough money for a rainy day, which, if you’ll pardon the pun, really helped in getting through the immediate aftermath of last year’s historic floods.
One idea put forth is instituting a 1-percent local option tax to pay for the police-fire project. The idea behind this is to spread the cost
One thing that would help the town’s financial health would be better business opportunities here and across the region. That’s where Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies comes in. The Selectboard recognized the business development group’s valuable role when it approved $25,000 towards efforts to complete a countywide economic development strategy.
SeVEDS got another boost this week with a $75,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. SeVEDS Chairwoman Lisa Sullivan said the federal grant gives the group extra support as it works to broaden its message and ask for support from towns throughout Windham County.
"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."
The group will hold its first public information meeting on Sept. 13 in Bellows Falls. We encourage all Windham County businesses and town officials to join in the discussion and plan out the best strategy for our collective future.
So we have creative thinkers planning out the town’s financial future and developing economic strategies for the business community. Now comes the third component ---marketing, because for any business to thrive it needs customers, and lots of them.
We were excited to learn this week that the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce arranged to have our town plastered on the giant screens in Times Square next week with a new advertisement promoting tourism in Brattleboro.
"We are always trying to tap the metropolitan market," said Jerry Goldberg, the chamber’s executive director. "Even if a tiny portion of the one million people who are going to see this thinks about Brattleboro that is a lot more than no one seeing it at all."
Brattleboro has a lot to offer with its many cultural events, restaurants, downtown shops and boutiques, and pristine views along the river. Once we show people that this is a great destination we have no doubt they’ll keep coming back for more.