Manchester Business Association to again request $50K from voters

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MANCHESTER — Manchester Select Board heard a request to place a $50,000 funding request from the Manchester Business Association on the town meeting warning for voters to consider.

The funding request is for the same amount voters approved on Town Meeting Day 2019, yet the MBA still came to the Tuesday's meeting with a stack of web page statistics, financial information showing increases in rooms and meals tax receipts and more they say shows their work is paying off.

John Burnham, MBA's vice president, said measure success is the key, and told the board the group spends a lot of time measuring success.

Burnham said the numbers prove those successes, telling the board that state tax revenues are up year over year for the June 2018 to June 2019 time frame.

"Rooms and meals is up 2.7 percent year over year," Burnham said. "Alcohol is up 7.3 percent, retail is up 6 percent."

Burnham pointed out the overall goal of the MBA is to continue to drive business to Manchester.

He said continual improvement at the visitor's center, located at 18 Depot St., which is now staffed more hours and additional days than it had been in its early days, is showing positive results.

The visitors' center now has two paid staff members, which has allowed the MBA to expand its hours from when it was staffed strictly with volunteers.

The group says the center sees between 500 and 800 visitors per month in the warmer months and about 100 per month in the winter is handing out information on lodging, restaurants, sights to see, and businesses in the community.

That has prompted a large majority of local businesses to join the MBA to help bolster their visibility in the community.

Part of the visibility comes from the group's web presence.

The MBA has a website that boasts an increase of 10,000 visitors — 8 percent — year over year.

The organization also has seen an increase of 3,000 Instagram followers and growth on Facebook. The social media campaigns, email blasts and other marketing efforts is spreading the word about Manchester, Burnham said.

"Our marketing has made things continue to grow, which is what we want to see," Burnham said.

While most of the web traffic comes from the local area, the next biggest geographic area visitors come from is the New York City area.

The reach is limited to the local area either. Visitors have checked in to the visitors' center from all over the world.

MBA President Paul W. Carroccio told the board the group sought the approval of the board to ask voters for the funding.

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"We are here to formally ask the town of manchester to put us on the town meeting warning for $50,000 that would be matched by funds we've raised," Carroccio said.

The MBA said that the $50,000 makes up about one-third of their operating budget with members providing almost all of the labor for free.

A couple of business owners in the audience, when asked about the recent Christmas shopping season gave rave reviews.

"One of our stores told me they did record-breaking sales going back to when they opened," said Lana Hauben of Manchester Designer Outlets.

Hauben said Manchester has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the diverse assortment of food options and quality of those options.

"This area has got to be known as a foodie place," Hauben said. "We have more variety and we have phenomenal food. There is no reasons to leave this area to go elsewhere."

She said another thing is Manchester has become known as being pet-friendly.

"That is politically amazing," Hauben said. "It's very, very, very important today."

Another business owner, Ron Mancini, of Mother Myrick's Confectionery, said the MBA deserves a lot of the credit and asked why the town wasn't given the MBA more money to work their magic, saying "$50,000 is way too little."

Mancini said that as the former president of the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce, he found the successes of the MBA to be benefitting the community in many ways.

"The state is spending thousands of dollars to bring people to Vermont," Mancini said, "As a business association, and as a former president of the chamber that no longer exists, here's a volunteer group that has done more in three years to bring business to the community than the chamber did in 30 years."

He said 30 percent of his staff now lives in town because his business has improved to the point he can pay higher wages allowing the workers to afford to live in Manchester.

"From my point of view, what's really happening in town is more people making more money living in Manchester," Mancini said. "They can afford to live here and they spend their money here. A lot of this is because of the success of the business community."

The MBA representatives weren't getting any argument from the Select Board chairman Ivan Beattie said it's the town government's job to responsibly manage town finances and made decisions about where money is spent, but he said this one will be up to the voters.

"We can support [the funding request] and there needs to be a contribution," Beattie said. "You've had a positive impact on the economy here in Manchester. The MBA is a huge asset to the town of Manchester. There is wide support on the board for the $50,000."

The warning for the town meeting warning is not yet finalized but it will get a lot closer after the next Select Board meeting, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Contact Darren Marcy at dmarcy@manchesterjournal.com or by cell at 802-681-6534.


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