(This story was first published in the March 7, 2013 edition of the Vermont Standard.)
By Gwen Stanley, Standard Staff
In Woodstock, an article that asked if the town would hire an economic development coordinator — a $50,000-a-year position — was defeated by a 520 to 361 vote.
The proposal was for a 25-hour-a-week position, one in which an independent contractor would have been responsible for recruiting new businesses into town and working with existing businesses as well. The town’s Select Board approved the plan to hire an Economic Development Coordinator in November.
The current economic development corporation is a three-year-old volunteer board created by Woodstock Select Board and Trustees. The coordinator position would have been under the auspices of the Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation, serving Woodstock as an independent contractor.
Charlie Kimbell, current head of the EDC, has said that the cost would be shared between the village and town. Kimbell said in November that “A small group of people on a volunteer basis can accomplish a lot of things, but there are limits.”
Kimbell cited a declining school enrollment and rising taxes as reasons that such a position is needed, along with the need to work with an economy that’s very dependent on the influx of tourists.
Several Woodstock businesses have closed their doors in recent months, including clothing store Morgan Ballou and kitchen store Aubergine, as well as jeweler Elliott Newman.
In recent years, other stores that have shuttered include Allechante, Howe Casual, Woodstock Coffee and Tea, children’s clothier Giggles, Noushka, a Verizon outlet and Thistle Bath and Body Shop., and most recently, Bentleys.
The coordinator would have been responsible for bringing in public and private funding for the town, as well as assisting current businesses with their needs.
The position would have meant that the town would be closer to being part of Main Street Program’s Downtown Designation, which meant the possibility of grants for improvement. Those grants can only be used for the town’s downtown area, though.
On Wednesday, Kimbell said that the EDC will move forward with its work on building a strong economic future for Woodstock businesses.
“Now we work on Plan B,” he said. “It’ll be a couple of days before we pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off.”
Kimbell said that the vote was disappointing to him, but not entirely surprising.
“(There’s) a lot of misinformation out there on a fairly complex topic,” he said. “We are down, but not defeated.”
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