Town business group to promote economic vitality


MANCHESTER>>Efforts to continue marketing and branding businesses in town are moving along with a new group of business owners.

The group is not going to replace the Manchester Chamber of Commerce and the Mountains that closed earlier this year.

They said their focus is to enhance the economic vitality of the town by supporting its programs and activities.

The reason for the group's formation, according to a prepared statement, is the "need for an organization that promotes the economic vitality of Manchester and works in partnership with other local, regional and state entities for the common good."

The small group of business owners and managers meeting together and with the town "to craft a plan to create a sustainable, focused, accountable and effective organization that will promote economic vitality, and, therefore, benefit the whole community and the region," the statement reads.

Bill Drunsic from Spiral Press Cafe and Nashville and Eastern Railroads is spearheading the group.

"[It's] often the case that we try to do things as individuals and we're all small businesses and it's just challenging to do your own marketing, advertising and of course it's not just your business," Drunsic said. "I think all businesses benefit as we get people into the area. Getting people into the area requires a broader approach and perspective. Businesses benefit from that. Strength in numbers, that's kind of the approach we're taking about."

Chris Morrow from the Northshire Bookstore referred to the group as the Manchester Business Association, but added that a name has yet to be decided. The group is still in the beginning stages of establishing itself.

The group consists of Morrow; Drunsic; Carolyn Blitz from Stratton Magazine; John Burnham from Taconic Hotel; Paul W. Carroccio from TPW real estate; Amy Chamberlain from Perfect Wife; Craig Hunter from Manchester Designer Outlets; Ron Mancini from Mother Myrick's; Manchester economic development officer Pauline Moore; Manchester Town Manager John O'Keefe; Andrew Reed from Sotheby's International; and Joy Slusarek from JOY all things underthings.

In the next few months they'll be determining the group's "legal structure, exploring the best funding mechanisms, and clarifying the specific objectives of this entity," according to the group's statement. Until then, the group is discussing ideas and figuring out future plans. Once a draft plan is finished, the community will be welcome to provide input and support.

The group was formed two days before the scheduled summit, Jonah Spivak, member of the Shires of Vermont told the Journal on Sept. 26.

"We're discussing how to work together [with Shires of Vermont] for the benefit of everybody," Drunsic said. "Nothing is cast in stone yet. I think in the fairly near future, once we can formulate a plan that we'll be coming to the general public and to the town with some public forums to say here's our ideas and things we're thinking about and gather additional input on moving forward."

The Shires of Vermont, a volunteer group to market the region, had taken over tasks that was left over from the chamber; maintaining the website, answering phones and setting up makeshift information centers

On Sept. 15 a group of 60 attended a Shires of Vermont summit that was supposed to result in forming a strategic alliance in lieu of the chamber's demise. Each person represented every factor of the economy, Spivak said.

"There's a strong desire to work more closely together as a region, and to think more super regionally because when we talk regionally, we say Shires of Vermont, but now southern Vermont wide with development," Spivak said. "People were very interested in putting resources on the table to get things to happen. I heard that from Stu Herd in Bennington and Manchester Designer Outlets. There's a lot of eagerness for action."

With end of the year holidays coming up, Spivak said he hopes a group will form to take care of events associated with those dates. He added that the new town business group formed days before the summit.

"The challenge still remains," Spivak said. "There's no long term solution. Meantime, Shires RMO continues to offer short term help we've been offering: welcome centers, website and phone line. Things we would like to pass onto partners when there are folks in place ready to take it on."

Several members of the new business group could not comment before press time.

Contact Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471.


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