Downtown Brattleboro Alliance finds success stories

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BRATTLEBORO — An organization tasked with promoting the vitality of downtown is finding success with events, collaborative efforts and social media.

"I am really happy to report that our year-to-date expenses were a little over $134,000 and our year-to-date income was a little over $160,000," Downtown Brattleboro Alliance Executive Director Stephanie Bonin said last Tuesday during a semi-annual update to the Select Board. "And so that leaves us with a surplus of $26,000, which leaves us well positioned for the next year. And that $26,000 has been allocated already to work that we've committed to grants for this fiscal year that we're now in."

The last fiscal year covered July 2018 to June 2019. Bonin became the group's first executive director in January 2018.

Lisa Ford, former DBA board member who helped organize the Short-Term Rental Summit held in May, said the summit was not only the first in Vermont but the first in the United States.

"We were recognized by legislators and by both the biggest web masters in short-term rentals, which are Airbnb and Vrbo," she said.

She said the summit was designed for short-term rental hosts and vacation property owners in Vermont to "celebrate and acknowledge their phenomenal success in our state, to build sustainable business skills and open up a conversation around state policies and local regulations."

Ford counted more than 300 people in attendance. The plan is to host the event again in May.

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The summit cost about $16,582 to put on, Bonin said, and it took in about $26,000.

Annie Richards, a member of the DBA board and promotions committee, said the annual BrattleboroBOO brought about 600 people downtown for Halloween for "family friendly activities" and saw collaboration among several local groups.

"Most of the merchants volunteered their time to stay open past their normal hours to hand out candy and be part of the event," she said, adding that they also offered treats that would not harm children with food allergies.

Select Board Chairwoman Brandie Starr commended the DBA's social media numbers. Bonin and another board member are responsible for posting on social media.

"So the national average for nonprofit growth each year is 13 percent each year," Bonin said. "And the last year, we grew by 21 percent."

The Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce and DBA are finding more ways to work together. The two groups issued a request for proposals for a marketing plan for Brattleboro to attract more visitors. They also are splitting the cost of running Planagogo, a calendar of community events posted on their websites and those of other local groups.

Bonin said regular meetings with merchants offer her group another avenue to coordinate efforts.

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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