Chamber looking toward a better 2013

Wednesday January 30, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- After a very rough 2011 that found Brattleboro dealing with a flood, a fire and a stubborn recession, Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce President Stephanie Huestis said 2012 was much better.

And she said she expects the town to continue to move forward during the coming year.

Huestis made the remarks at the chamber's annual meeting which was held Tuesday morning at the Brattleboro Retreat.

"We've faced some real economic challenges but 2012 started with real promise," she said, citing the completion of the new Brattleboro Co-op, the opening of the Whetstone restaurant and upgrades to the area near the Amtrak train station. "The community needs are still high and the chamber is taking the extra step."

The announcement that Executive Director Jerry Goldberg would be leaving at the end of this year overshadowed most of the information given at Tuesday's meeting, though Huestis said 2012 was a successful year on many levels.

The chamber's "One and Only" campaign which brands Brattleboro continued, she said, and Huestis promised a new website in the coming weeks which she hopes will bring in revenue and give chamber members more options for advertising.

Chamber Treasurer Drew Richards said the chamber was profitable in 2012, though he said that was largely due to grants and donations the organization received.

Membership dropped for the third straight year, falling from 579 members in 2010 to 521 in 2012.

The chamber has different levels of membership, and when all of the membership income was calculated, overall income dropped by 4.6 percent.

And Richards warned that things that might get more challenging.

"It's not a good trend and there is not one answer to how we can address this," he said. "The business community is not growing. We have an interesting year coming up."

The chamber receives some of its annual funding through income it receives on the group insurance program, which draws many businesses in to the chamber.

That insurance program will disappear with the looming federal health care changes and Richards said the chamber will have to figure out how to plug that hole in the budget, along with the continuing challenge to bring new members into the chamber.

Still, with the grants and donations the chamber was able to post a 10 percent increase in revenues, which Richards said was 22 percent over budget.

Some of Brattleboro oldest businesses were honored at Tuesday's meeting.

Holton House was recognized for celebrating 120 years of service and Brattleboro Savings and Loan marked its first century in 2012.

The School for International Training was honored for marking 80 years of educating and Health Care and Rehabilitative Services was recognized for marking 45th year.

Vermont Artisan Designs and Youth Services both received certificate for operating for 40 years.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or You can follow him on Twitter @HowardReformer.


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