Addison County’s business-development groups each have unique focus
I am often asked about the differences between the Chamber of Commerce and other local business groups such as the Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Middlebury Business Development Fund (MBDF) or one of the downtown organizations (Better Middlebury Partnership, Vergennes Partnership, Bristol CORE). My answer might surprise you.
In many ways we’re more similar than dissimilar. Each of us receives funding from a variety of sources such as membership, sponsorship, events, donations, grants, and town, state and/or federal appropriations, etc. While the services and benefits of each organization overlap in some places; each also has a unique set of responsibilities, functions and focus.
For instance the Chamber is the only local organization that promotes tourism. But, the Chamber and the downtown groups are alike in that we all produce events that showcase our communities. The Chamber puts more emphasis on attracting out-of-state visitors, particularly for our signature athletic events — the Middlebury Maple Run and the
Vermont Gran Fondo (VTGF). VTGF recently won a $5,000 grant from the Vermont Department of Tourism & Marketing with the sole purpose of advertising the event outside Vermont to bring out-of-state athletes here. VTGF has had a good track record of attracting people from “away.” More than 80 percent of 2016’s athletes live outside of Vermont, and 15 percent of those came from Canada.
The Chamber’s and ACEDC’s services overlap in our mutual abilities to provide educational opportunities on topics such as marketing trends, business continuity and organizational skills. In fact, the two organizations plan to work more closely together in 2017. We will co-produce and promote seminars focused on issues common to both constituencies.
One of the ways our organizations differ is that only two can offer sources of funding — that’s the bailiwick of ACEDC and MBDF — not the Chamber or the downtown business groups. While we’re all interested in bringing new businesses to the area and helping them succeed, we’re not all set up to offer seed funding or loans.
All of the aforementioned organizations also advocate on behalf of their members /constituents on a variety of topics, typically at the town level or in Montpelier. Issues such as Middlebury’s railroad construction project, traffic congestion on Vergennes’ Main Street, increases in rooms and meals taxes are the types of issues that we work on — both independently or collaboratively depending on the topic.
The bottom line is that we all have different missions, areas of expertise, services and benefits. But we all have the same end goal, which is to support our communities and the businesses within them to make Addison County a better place.
Mark A. Nelson of Bristol
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