Editorial: Kudos to Neighbors Together
That the town of Middlebury will receive a $228,750 state grant to promote and market the town’s business community during the rail bridges road construction work over the next two years is no small deal. Much work went into preparation of that grant proposal, submitted by Neighbors Together, which culminated in a very detailed and comprehensive marketing plan.
Importantly, the budget proposal includes more than promoting the downtown businesses that will suffer the greatest during the construction. Yes, some of the marketing will be directed to boost the downtown center, but much more work will be done to create a stronger brand for the town — a message that should generate benefits for years to come and long after the construction is finished.
That branding will seek to boost Middlebury’s appeal as a destination for travelers, both winter and summer, and as a community that offers a rich cultural life within its arts community, and ample outdoor recreation at its doorstep. For those who aren’t aware, Middlebury’s road biking is among the best in the state and region, its mountain biking options are growing and full of new potential, and its snow skiing options (with Rikert Nordic Center and the Middlebury College Snow Bowl) offering an increasingly robust alpine/Nordic combination make the area not only one of great values, but an area that is not as overcrowded, overpriced and overhyped as the state’s better known resorts like Stowe, Stratton and Okemo. There is an authentic charm to Middlebury’s modesty, not to mention pocketbook issues, which is likely to have a growing appeal as day tickets at nearby ski resorts reach $150 compared to Middlebury’s $45.
That’s just one aspect of a plan that looks at how it can benefit the entire community for the long-term, and beyond the immediate pain of what will be a two-year trial for several of Middlebury’s downtown businesses. To that end, every resident in the greater Middlebury area can help immensely by simply making a personal effort to shop locally — through the dust, noise and slightly longer walks from a parking spot to the door of the business you want to patronize. Neighbor’s Together will help by making it fun to congregate downtown with its various events throughout the next two years, but it’s daily patronage by each of us that will make the real difference.
In the meantime, kudos to Neighbors Together for its grant award; let us hope it’s the first of many successes as we head into construction season.
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