The Waitsfield Selectboard hosted a Business Community Forum on Monday, October 27, 7:00 p.m., at the Big Picture Theater and encouraged business people, local offiicials, citizens, and others to participate in an open forum about Waitsfield’s business climate. The event was moderated by Peter MacLaren, of the West Hill House B&B in Warren. A detailed summary of the comments and discussion and can be downloaded from the links below:
- Waitsfield is an incredible place to live
- Brand of Valley is marketable
- We've attracted a number of talented high-tech businesses
- Valley has a lot to offer
- Still has integrity of a rural town
- One-to-one connections with people
- Ability to work together to get things done
- Lack of cohesiveness
- Poor transportation facilities
- Lack of sidewalks
- Not easily walkable
- Plowing does not take pedestrians into account
- Lack of a park
- Lack of pro-business attitude
- Lack of clear branding of the Valley
- We're not living up to who we are
- Many of the buildings are decrepit
- Lack of cohesive effort to pull together identity ---> events, promotion
- Lack of "how can I help you?"
- Arrogance on boards
- Parking problem on Old County Road near health center has not been addressed (widen shoulder)
- Very difficult to get a permit in Waitsfield
- Lack of more participation of business owners in forums like this
- Waitsfield has reputation for not being business-friendly (via CVEDC)
- Some businesses feel disenfranchised from the Chamber-no other networking opportunity
- Circumstances related to Virginia Houston created negative feelings, distrust
- Lack of infrastructure to support tourism
- We need more recreational facilities to attract more visitors & improve quality of life
- Community Center
- Other meeting/gathering spaces
- Bike lanes on Route 100
- Improve parking areas at Bridge Street
- We should promote the industrial park
- Tax incentives
- Encourage businesses that support tourism
- We need better branding for who we are
- Welcoming host at events ---> embassador
- Bring all activities, events, etc., together in one resource
- Calendar (a true community calendar)
- Needs to be promoted
- Tax stabilization for renewable energy investments
- Enterprise Zone: allow businesses to expand in current locations
- Town could be more helpful to businesses trying to get state and local permits
- Create more opportunities where people feel they are heard
- Chamber is in process of changing its structure
- Be more welcoming & proactive to support businesses
- Designate Town person to be responsible for lobbying for business at State level & for recruitment
- Inventory our assets & nurture what we have
- Buy local campaign ---> support each other
- It's easy to start a business but difficult to grow them
- Ability to keep & attract employees
- Distribution of tax burden unfair to historic village properties
- Need to address shifting demographics
- Bosch is vacating building at the industrial park
- Excessive use of executive and deliberative sessions undermines confidence & trust in government ' distrust
- Decisions appear to be based on personality rather than merits
- Appears to be willingness to fight too often rather than find resolution/mediation
- Negative energy
- Community is divided
- Lack of trust
- Some Town decisions make people feel threatened ' divisive
- There are a number of existing businesses that are struggling
- Need to find a way to KEEP visitors in the Valley
- How can we brand our town if we don't know who we are?
- Lack of unified vision
Synthesis of Major Themes
SUPPORTINT BUSINESS - EXISTING and NEW
- Chamber Web site
- Business listings on Town Web site
- Free wireless hot spots ---> entire MRV?
- Create Valley-wide brand "OPEN" flag?
- Increased collaboration with Chamber to communication that Waitsfield is open for business
- Provide a space for business support & technical assistance
- Monthly/weekly calendar in Valley Reporter that lists events, meetings, etc.
- Community outreach about Town Plan
- MRVTV coverage ---> many media tools
- More communication between Chamber and the Selectboard
- Risk of over-information ---> distill information: salient points, prioritize
- Town newsletter: use as vehicle to disseminate distilled elements of Town Plan
- Need to go back to the question of the vision/who are we? ---> distill the vision.
- Need to have more of these forums
- Restructure Town Meeting day to meet informally with the boards
- Waitsfield's identity is closely tied to the Mad River Valley
- What's Waitsfield's role/responsibility as the commercial center for the Mad River Valley
- Have presentation/discussion of vision in Town Plan ---> How to take that to voters for agreement?
- Geographic distinctions confusing ---> Town sign?
" Ambivalence about being a tourist/resort community
- Important not to lose integrity of place
- Need to identify gateways/entrances
- Revisit/discuss boundaries, e.g., Moretown, Duxbury, Middlesex
- What does "Don't want to be another Stowe" mean?
- Path to physically connect Village & Irasville, including crosswalks, sidewalks.
- Town Pond & green is under-used. ---> Town green? Town center?
- Free wireless hotspots
- Form volunteer work groups to help property owners spruce up/maintain properties --->' Build on Green Up Day model
- Get the basic infrastructure in: sidewalks, paved road, etc.
Town Plan Update
Below is a link to the Economic Development chapter of the Waitsfield Town Plan, which was adopted in June 2005 and expires in 2010--in less than 2 years. It is the guiding document that shapes many of the Town's policies and actions. The topics discussed and outcome of the Business Community Forum will be of interest to the Planning Commission as they undertake the update of the Town Plan and evaluate its policies and strategies. Stay tuned for more information in the coming months about the Town Plan update process.
Updates and Accomplishments
Zoning Revisions - December 2008, January 2009
The Selectboard adopted proposed zoning revisions on January 26, 2009.
Tax Stabilization Initiative to be on Warning - November 2008
At Brian Fleisher's request, the Selectboard agreed to place a alternative energy tax stabilization meaure on the Town Meeting warning. Check it out at Agendas & Minutes
Community Calendar On-line - November 2008
The Mad River Valley Chamber of Commerce has revamped its online community calendar to include all events in the Mad River Valley. Check it out at www.madrivervalley.com.
MRV Community Business Builders - January 2009
The Mad River Valley Community Business Builders held their kick-off meeting on Friday, January 9, 2009 at the Big Picture Theater, where they continue to meet weekly every Friday morning, 7:45 - 9:00 a.m. Check it out at www.mrvcommunitybusinessbuilders.com.
Buy Local - on-going
Looking for a product or service? Save time and gas dollars by checking out Valley businesses first before heading out of town for it. Other ways to support buying local:
Business Promotion on Town Web Site - on-going
The Town provides free listings of Waitsfield businesses through its Web site (see links below). One goal is to promote Waitsfield businesses and to show visitors, residents, and others the remarkable diversity of products and services available here; it's also a resource to help citizens BUY LOCAL. The only requirement to be listed is the business must be physically located in Waitsfield, not just a P.O. box. It is a work in progress. Please let me know if you see businesses that can be added or corrections that should be made.
Arts & Entertainment: www.waitsfieldvt.us/arts/index.cfm
Foods & Eateries: www.waitsfieldvt.us/food/index.cfm
Local Talents: A Local Talents page to promote local talents, such as performers, authors, and artists is under development but has not yet been launched.
Industry: An Industry page is also under development to promote businesses that don’t necessarily fit the other categories.
Non-profits: A Non-Profits page to promote organizations located in Waitsfield that provide wide range of local, regional, and national services is under development but has not yet been launched.
The Waitsfield Selectboard invites and encourages business owners, citizens, local officials, and others to share your concerns and ideas for maintaining a strong business climate in Waitsfield.