Big shoes to fill

Wednesday February 6, 2013

During its annual meeting last month officers for the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce listed a number of challenges for the coming year -- a declining membership and revenue shortfalls chief among them. But the biggest one, we think, will be finding a new executive director to lead the organization as it works to overcome the other obstacles.

Executive Director Jerry Goldberg announced that he will leave his job at the end of this year to pursue new opportunities, but he emphasized that he will always cherish his time with the chamber: "I would not trade one minute of the past six years," he told the Reformer. But, he said, "Now it is time for me to move on, and let someone else try this."

Goldberg came into the job almost by chance. After spending about two decades at CBS working in marketing and promotion, he accepted an early retirement package at the age of 55 and moved to New England, and in the late 1990s got a job at the School for International Training.

He spent nine years there before deciding it was again time to move on and try something new. That’s when a friend told him about an opening for the director’s position at the chamber.

Goldberg admits that at the time he knew nothing about what an executive director at a chamber of commerce in a small New England town did. The day before his interview he did a crash course on chambers of commerce and during his interview he made the pitch for the chamber to take a chance on the retired television executive from New York.

Goldberg was hired and he has been selling all things Brattleboro ever since.

His marketing prowess has been especially valuable these last couple years as Brattleboro navigated through some very stormy economic seas. Starting with the Brooks House fire in April 2011 to the August 2011 flooding from Tropical Storm Irene, and a stubborn recession throughout, our One and Only Brattleboro has seen some tough times indeed.

Rumors started to spread throughout the New England area, and even throughout the country, that Brattleboro was "closed for business."

But with Goldberg at the helm, the chamber and many other partnering organizations launched a marketing campaign on several fronts to spread the word that Brattleboro and all of southern Vermont are very much open for tourists.

Radio advertising hit the air waves, circulating the message throughout the I-91 corridor and, for the first time, throughout the whole eastern New York, western Connecticut and Massachusetts region. A new and collaborative One and Only Brattleboro shopping, dining and lodging guide -- another first for the area -- was developed and widely distributed.

BCTV helped produce a video of downtown merchants declaring "we’re open for business" that was shared through YouTube, on the web and through customer lists built over the years by downtown merchants.

To cap it all off, Goldberg tapped in to his New York contacts to land Brattleboro a coveted spot on the big (actually, giant) screens in Times Square last fall, and again during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. The promotion also included a full-page ad in Horizon magazine, which is distributed to approximately 100,000 Wall Street Journal subscribers in the New York City metropolitan area.

"One of the reasons I did it was to get Brattleboro -- the one and only Brattleboro -- on people’s screens," Goldberg said at the time. "While the ad itself may not have done a lot, the coverage of the ad did a lot to get the name Brattleboro out there."

That positive, can-do attitude that Goldberg brought to the chamber and to the whole Brattleboro area (not to mention his marketing expertise and out-of-the-box thinking) will be sorely missed when he retires at the end of the year.

On the bright side, the chamber hopes to have someone in place in the fall to work with Goldberg for a time before he leaves so he can pass on some of his wisdom and experience to the next in line. And, Goldberg said he plans to start a private business consultant agency to continue working with business owners in the region.

As a 100-year-old Brattleboro business, the Reformer thanks Goldberg for his dedicated service, we wish him luck as he embarks on the next chapter of his life, and we look forward to hearing about his future successes.


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