I was honored to speak at this morning’s long awaited Valley Trail grand opening. Successful community economic development projects of this magnitude require the 6 P’s: Perseverance, Patience, Persistence and strong Partnerships between the Public and Private sector. This is a tremendous new asset for the Deerfield Valley, and I’m pretty proud to have played a part.
Good Morning! I am a founding member of the BiTown effort and so pleased to be able to offer a few words on this latest collaborative accomplishment for the towns of Dover and Wilmington. While each town has their own proud history and individual traditions, they also have a long history of working together on a variety of different cooperative endeavors. We have shared resources: chamber of commerce, the MOOver, sports leagues for children and adults as well as our Deerfield Valley Rotary and other civic organizations. We celebrate and welcome visitors to an ever growing number of shared events like our Fourth of July festivities, and our Blueberry, Wine and Harvest and new Fiddlehead Festival.
In the winter of 2007 the towns began working on this latest Bi-Town effort. After two years in a row of snowless Holiday seasons, and an economy that was already beginning to slow down, small businesses feared they would have to lay off employees and put renovation and growth plans on hold. Towns were facing the possibility of negative impacts to their grand lists and population. The towns along with the chamber and BDCC pulled together this representative Wilmington/Dover effort to begin to identifying ways to work together to address the economic challenges inherent in towns dependent on a weather dependent tourism economy.
In 2009 both towns voters agreed to invest in developing a joint regional economic development plan with Dr. John Mullin and Zenia Kotval from U-Mass. The report produced seven high level recommendations including that the two towns must protect their cultural, historical and topographical character, become partners with the resorts in developing linkage with the village centers and hire professional staff to execute the more detailed economic development action plans.
Since that time collaborative efforts have seen lupines planted, wifi hot spots developed, events developed with venues in each town, new downtown parks and coordinated beautification efforts and most recently village center designations. We are really fortunate to have hired the staff we have in Gretchen Havreluk and Ken Black who have carried out much of this work.
During this same time we have seen important investment and long term planning at both Mount Snow and the Hermitage Club. Both resorts have also contributed substantial time and resources to the Valley Trail effort.
The muscle to get this project done came from both towns trails committees with efforts coordinated by Jake White and Mike Purcell.
This trail now connects our forested beauty with our village downtowns and our resorts. What an incredible new asset for both our residents and visitors. This public and private sector collaboration with both towns will be a lasting symbol of how proud individual entities can come together to create something much larger than they ever could have one on their own.
The work of this group has inspired a more regional effort – Jeff Lewis, the former Executive Director of BDCC and also a founding member of the bi town committee was inspired by the collaboration he saw here and went on to develop Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies or SeVEDS. That group has recently completed the first ever federally recognized Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy for the region CEDS.