Fox named new development director in Rockingham

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ROCKINGHAM — Gary Fox is a well-known name throughout Windham County. From fighting for a sustainable and environmentally friendly economy as the executive director of Sustainable Valley Group, to giving Vermonters a transit service as a founding member of The Current, to heading New England Center for Circus Arts' capital campaign, Fox has a

myriad of accomplishments to list.

Now he hopes to take his work even further as the new Rockingham development director.

"All of my work has focused on development," Fox said.

Fox started his position Monday, filling a role that had been left vacant since September when the previous director, Emmet Dunbar, resigned.

Dunbar resigned, he said, because he felt the position should be full-time rather than part time. Fox will be taking the position up in addition to his work with NECCA, which he said will decrease to about 13 hours a week. He also will remain the executive director of SVG.

"There's a lot of pieces to the development job that I've worked with and am familiar with," he said.

In his work with SVG, Fox said he's had to work with the Rockingham development office. The groups, he said, have aligned goals. His most recent efforts with SVG and the development office involved the old Robertson Paper Company building, at 21 Island St.

The SVG originally thought and told companies they could open businesses in the building. The development office pushed back on this idea, rightfully so, Fox said. He and other SVG members didn't realize at the time how much work needed to be done with the Robertson Paper Company building. It needed to be completely stripped. When they later realized the problem, the team had to tell businesses they couldn't come in because the building needed to be stripped and cleaned up per Environmental Protection Agency standards.

Fox cited the incident as an example where he experienced push back.

He expected he might experience push back more in his new role, but he said the director's job should entail looking at situations from multiple perspectives and choosing what best aligns with the town's plan.

Fox feels as though he's already well acquainted with town and village goals.

He moved to Bellows Falls in 1992. He started volunteering, he said, because of his children.

"I volunteered based on things my kids did," he said. His children, for instance, were involved with NECCA, so he got involved with NECCA. He also just wanted to get involved with Rockingham and Bellows Falls and help them be the best communities they could be.

Fox said he's "psyched" to dive into all the development projects.

He suspects there's probably a backlog of projects that need to be finished since the position has been vacant for the past two months. There are some grants he'd like to finish before February. He also wants to focus on the Bellows Falls Island, which he describes as the "gateway of Bellows Falls." The clean-up project for the Robertson Paper Company is a big part of the revitalization of the island, Fox said. With SVG, he's already been working on creating job growth by installing solar paneling on the island and training people on how to install the solar paneling, giving them a profitable skill. Once the paper company's clean-up project is finished, new businesses can start opening up there.

"Rockingham is in good shape to me," Fox said.

He cited the town's revolving loan fund, which he called well-funded. He said there's been a significant improvement in the fight against blight, which he'd like to improve upon.

"There are great economic goals and action steps," he said.

Harmony Birch can be reached at hbirch@reformer.com, at @Birchharmony on Twitter and 802-254-2311, Ext. 153.

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