MANCHESTER -- On March 11th all members of the Manchester community are invited to participate in a series of forums to gather to promote priorities for action for the future of the community. This community gathering is the first of a three-month "Community Visit" process that will allow residents to actively participate in examining issues, deciding their top priorities and developing concrete action plans. Everyone is invited to join.

The Selectboard invited VCRD's Community Visit process to Manchester which is offered at no charge to the community. Ivan Beattie, Chair of the Selectboard, believes "Manchester's citizen involvement has allowed us to experience significant investment in our town during this tough economy. This community vision process will give all of us a unique opportunity to reflect on and embrace our history while we collectively explore our options for the future."

The Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD) which will facilitate the Manchester 2020 process is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to the advancement of Vermont communities. In the past 14 years, they have worked in over 35 communities across Vermont to bring residents together to share ideas around issues of concern and to move toward common solutions.

This first community gathering, the Manchester 2020 Community Visit Day, will include focus groups on different topics at meeting rooms around town and a free community dinner (see the schedule with locations below). Forum topics were decided by a town steering committee representing people of all ages, occupations and parts of town. The topics they set as starting points for the sessions on March 11th will include: Tourism & Transportation; Housing; Downtown; Expanding Economic Opportunity; Poverty; Working Landscape, Food & Sustainability; Defining Authentic Manchester; Opportunities in Education; and Arts, Recreation & Nightlife. VCRD will bring a 35-person team of federal, state, business and non-profit leaders who will sit in on sessions throughout the afternoon and evening, facilitate strong dialogue and join community members at the free community dinner at the Burr & Burton Academy cafeteria in the Rowland Building.

VCRD Visiting Team members include Lawrence Miller, Secretary of Commerce, Doug Racine, Secretary of Human Services, John Tracy, Director of Senator Leahy's Office, Molly Lambert, VT Director of USDA Rural Development, Tim Donovan, Chancellor of Vermont State Colleges, Gus Seelig, Executive Director of the Vermont Housing Conservation Board, Paul Bruhn, Executive Director of Preservation Trust of Vermont, and many other key Vermont community and economic development leaders.

According to Paul Costello, Executive Director of VCRD, "It's all about local leadership. At VCRD, we know that the best decisions are made locally, and that local leadership and the participation of residents is the real key to progress. The Community Visit will allow people of Manchester and the surrounding area to build on their assets, prioritize their ideas, and connect with experts and resources from around Vermont to get things done."

Seth Bongartz, Executive Director of Hildene, is "interested in the forum on 'Authentic Manchester'. I think this is an opportunity for the whole community to come together and describe our big goals for the future-how do we preserve the character of Manchester in a way that keeps the community true to its roots and history, but connects to a new generation and new opportunities."

Lee Krohn, Manchester's Planning Director, says he "looks forward to spirited and insightful conversation about our hopes, fears, goals, and dreams for our community's future."

The Manchester 2020 CV process is being supported with contributions from an advised fund of the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Country Store.

The Community Visit is an important opportunity for people thinking forward about Manchester's future to exchange ideas, meet Vermont leaders from many professional realms, and begin taking steps toward positive change. VCRD welcomes diverse perspectives and encourages ALL members of the community to participate. Everyone is invited to join the conversation on March 11.

Manchester Fire Department

6041 Main St. Town Hall, Kilburn Room

6039 Main St. Israel Congregation Synagogue

6025 Main St. 2:15-3:45 pm Tourism and Transportation Housing Downtown

4:00-5:30 pm Expanding Economic Opportunity Poverty Working Landscape, Food, & Sustainability

5:45-7:00 pm FREE COMMUNITY DINNER Burr & Burton Academy Cafeteria (Rowland Building)

Burr & Burton Burr & Burton Burr & Burton 7:00-8:30 pm Defining Authentic Manchester Opportunities in Education Arts, Recreation, & Nightlife

For more information, visit www.vtrural.org or contact Margaret Gibson McCoy at 802-223-6091 or Margaret@vtrural.org.