BENNINGTON >> A new partnership between the Bennington County Regional Commission (BCRC) and Bennington County Industrial Corporation (BCIC) aims to prevent duplicated efforts, increase the efficiency of and promote communication between two groups that have often worked together on economic development, officials say.
Under the new partnership announced Wednesday, BCIC's work will be taken over by the BCRC. BCIC's executive director position, long held by Peter Odierna, will be eliminated. Both organizations will continue to have separate boards of directors, according to BCIC Board President Richard "Dixie" Zens.
"We were looking for a change in the way things are done," Zens, the vice president of Bennington-based manufacturer Abacus Automation, told the Banner Wednesday. "We were looking to make things more efficient ... It makes a lot of sense."
Zens said that while both organizations have traditionally worked closely together, there have been overlapping and duplicated efforts.
"If you're not in the office with each other, there's not the full communication stream that there could be," Zens said.
In addition, the economic development model and manufacturing world has changed since BCIC was founded nearly 60 years ago, with fewer big employers looking to open new factories. Efforts to entice new employers will continue, Zens said, but there will be more of an emphasis on fostering "homegrown" businesses, either those already established or new startups.
The partnership brings both organizations' work under one roof and disperses it among one group of staff. Beginning Feb. 1, BCIC will start sub-contracting with the BCRC, Zens explained. BCRC will in turn take on BCIC's core economic development priorities, which are funded through the state.
BCIC will soon cease renting space at 215 South St., Zens said. It's operations and existing programs, such as those on workforce development, will be run by BCRC staff from the BCRC office at 111 South St.
BCIC's development activities will be led by Bill Colvin, BCRC's assistant director and community development coordinator.
This marks the second time a regional development corporation and regional planning commission have joined forces. The Northeast Kingdom Development Association was the first, according to its website.
Odierna said he will be assisting both organizations with the transition during his final week with BCIC.
"I enjoyed my time at BCIC and I feel I made a lasting impact on our community," Odierna said when reached Wednesday. "However, nothing is meant to last forever, and I look forward to writing the next chapter of my life."
He became BCIC's marketing director in 2002 and was appointed executive director in 2004. He replaced Lance Matteson, who held the position for nine years.
BCIC was incorporated as a nonprofit in 1957 and, as one of 12 similar organizations in Vermont, receives state funding. It's mission "is to promote quality jobs in Bennington County" such as manufacturing and information-based positions.
Zens acknowledged a push by state and federal officials for organizations relying on public money to streamline operations, but said the changes aren't in direct response to a decrease in funding.
"The board has been discussing this for months," he said. "The finances may have pushed us a little quicker, as things are tighter these days."
The new partnership was instead driven by a need to make processes more efficient, Zens said, especially since communities around the state — and country — are all vying for big companies to put down roots.
Zens noted other efforts to strengthen the local economy, like those of the Selectboard. He also spoke of the dire need to do so, outlined in a report issued late last year on southern Vermont's declining and aging population. Those all fit into the work of the partnership, he said.
"We're really looking forward to this and we know it will be a good change for the county," Zens said.
Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979