Revised Notes from Economic Development committee meeting
October 7, 2015
Attendees: Brian Savage, Tim Smith, Neal Speer, Sandy Kilburn, Ron Kilburn, Molly Lambert, Marianna Gamache, Suzanne Washburn, Terri Oshea
Update on SEP
Dam Duck Derby
Ron Kilburn gave an update on the duck derby. It was a huge success, especially for a first time event. Many volunteers helped and 240 ducks were purchased. Over $1,000 was raised; proceeds will go to the Swanton Historical Society and SEP. There was a discussion about other towns that have similar events and adding some of their ideas to ours (e.g., Newport has businesses buy special ducks and have them race as well as the rubber duck race). Thanks to Mary Metayer and Ron and the volunteers for bringing the community together and making it fun.
High School Presentation at Faculty Meeting
Molly talked about how Kathy L and Judy P had talked to the guidance counselors at MU, and how we have the opportunity to talk with the full staff at an after-school faculty meeting on October 21st. Molly, Hank and the chairs will present at the meeting. The committee gave suggestions on what our committee would like for help:
* Agricultural – flowers and veggies, bridge, farmers market, which will be at Methodist Church on scheduled Saturdays this winter)
* Data research (businesses that exist, other)
* Local job expo
* Offer to do something for businesses (paint storefront for holidays, etc.)
High School Internship status and Graduate Student Intern (Ben Doyle)
Molly gave an update on how we are trying to get high school interns to help with the committee work as appropriate, and at the same time we are trying to get a graduate student to work part time as an intern overseeing SEP. The graduate student would be the point person and would supervise the high school interns. We talked about the job descriptions later in the meeting.
Farmers Market Update from Suzanne
Suzanne updated us on the Swanton Farmers Market. It is going to continue inside during the cold weather. She said she would get us the specific information to put in the minutes. Here it is: “The Village Green Farmers Market located on the Village Green and sponsored by the Swanton Chamber of Commerce will be sponsoring a Winter Village Farmers Market. The market will be held inside the Memorial United Methodist Church, across from the Swanton Village Green. The market dates are Nov. 7 and 21, Dec. 5 and 19, Jan. 19 and 23, Feb. 6 and 20 and Mar. 5 and 19. The market starts at 9 and ends at 2. To be considered as a Vendor please call the Chamber at: 802.868.7200 or send us a Facebook message with your complete name, a phone number to reach you at and a description of your offerings.
Thank you to Suzanne.
Guest Speaker: Tim Smith (ways we can support and align with his work)
Tim started by telling us that he considered himself part of our committee and would like to attend on a regular basis. We expressed our appreciation for his coming tonight and how he has been working with us.
Tim explained the ways we could look at community economies:
1. Strong economy which is the exchange of money in a community where money leaks out or
2. Economic development which brings money into the community (example: VT Precision)
Tim suggested that we do a tour – it would be interesting and important for us to be aware of what exists when we talk about economic development. We need information to be good ambassadors. The businesses we would like to visit are:
* Dave Fosgate’s sites (3 sites at 10,000 sq. ft.)
* VT Precision tools
* Rays tools
* Leader Evaporator
And we need research on telecommunication
Action Item: Arrange for tours for committee to take of local businesses
Who: Who will volunteer to be point person on this?
Action Item: Arrange for research on telecommunication access
Who: High School intern
Tim was asked at what point is a community ready to have a position dedicated to economic development. Tim said a community like ours could start at 20 hours and then grow. The committee discussed how we could definitely keep the position busy. Swanton needs a strategic plan and grants. There are a lot of grants available to help communities with economic development.
The Norther Border Regional Commission got a $250,000. Tim talked about the focus on the border and opportunities.
A big bonus for Swanton is the Welcome Center being discussed. The discussions have focused on two sites:
1. Building a 20 x 20 log cabin next to the interstate on property owned by one of the gas stations
2. The old Highgate welcome center
Discussion followed about which would be better for Swanton, which is most feasible, and what we could do. It was pointed out that all major routes into Vermont have a welcome center except Highgate. The ideal is probably HIghgate with a Swanton component. We definitely want to advocate for a welcome center.
Action Item: Our group will recommend to the Steering Committee that we meet with the delegation and let them know we want to make Welcome Center a high priority. We will also recommend that we work with surrounding community to meet with delegation.
Who: Terri will recommend at October steering committee.
Tim had some other recommendations. He believes people want to get out and meet their neighbors. The Chamber has done a good job of holding events. Tim suggested we have a calendar with a community event every month, such as the duck derby in October, the Easter egg hunt in April, the Swan ice in winter, etc. It strengthens economy and builds community.
Action Item: Recommend to the Steering Committee that we develop a calendar with monthly events that will build community and strengthen economy.
Who: Terri will recommend at October meeting.
Another recommendation…Economic development is a whole system – workforce, downtown, restaurants. A way to help this is to have a local job expo. It will get people educated about what is out there. We want to try and get people to stay local.
Action Item: Work with Tim and others to have a local Job Expo
Who: Who will volunteer to be point person?
An update and another recommendation… We have a brand for our counties: True Vermont. How can we get it moving?
Action Item: Talk with Steering Committee about ways to get this moving. Also keep it on radar in committee work
Who: Terri talk with Steering Committee. Keeping it on the radar of committee is everyone’s responsibility
Also, housing stock plays a huge role in economic development. Tim asked if any incentives were available for turning rental properties into single family homes. Is Swanton top heavy on rentals? What is the vacancy rate?
Action Item: Look into housing statistics. Look into incentives to encourage ownership.
Who: Intern could help with research. Who will volunteer to be point person?
We thanked Tim and told him we look forward to his continued help.
Information needed for “Interim Internship position”
Terri handed out copies of draft job descriptions and asked for input. It was agreed that they would go out electronically with the notes and that people would make recommended changes and get back to Terri
Update on Gamache/Prouty Building by Ron Kilburn
Ron has gotten in touch with the architect, Lars, who is working on the report and is halfway done. He told Ron it should be ready by end of October. Thank you to Ron for seeing this through and Marianna for allowing it.
Action Item: Consider report and what it means for moving forward – to the owner and to SEP.
Who: Ron and Marianna
Brian Savage is offering a seminar, “How to turn your hobby into a business”. He is doing it through the Chamber and the Arts Council. A date is not set but will be advertised when finalized.
Thank you to everyone for your participation.
Next meeting: First Wednesday of November, which is November 4, 2015, from 6:30 – 8:00 at the Swanton Village Complex.
Notes respectfully submitted by Terri O’Shea