Derek Boothby: Tooting the horn
Since 2008 we have seen the construction of two brand new hotels in town, ITVFest had a great start last October and intends to make Manchester its annual home for the future, in December Main Street became the venue for filming an episode of the ABC Reality show `The Bachelor', and out of the ashes of the defunct Manchester and the Mountains Regional Chamber of Commerce has risen the Manchester Business Association (MBA).
The business members of our community have recognized that there is more to be achieved by working together than working as separate shops, lodgings, restaurants, and offices. The MBA has initiated a vigorous marketing effort with the aim of bringing more visitors, vacationers and potential homebuyers to our area. In particular, the MBA has plunged into digital marketing with an imaginative and colorful website - www.manchestervermont.com - that has signed up about 170 businesses while generating 60,000 page views per month as well as 18,000 site visits per month.
In the 21st century this is the way to attract outside attention to what Manchester and our area has to offer. In a town of our size one might have thought that the Town Hall would take an active part in running a Visitors' Center. However, it is the MBA that has taken on the task of keeping open the Visitors' Center in a vacant shopfront by the roundabout. During the winter months it is only open at weekends, but when the summer arrives it is intended to be open much more often.
As business people know, it takes money to make money. All these efforts by the MBA take time and money in order to be successful. The MBA has approached the Select Board for Manchester for a town contribution from the one per cent surcharge on sales and use taxes, on the basis that by bringing more visitors to the town the business community is contributing to the economic health of the town. Hopefully this will be a topic for voter support and favorable decision at Town Meeting in March.
Nevertheless, we cannot sit back and expect the MBA to do all the work. After all, the members have their own businesses to run. There are others in and around the town who, although they don't derive immediate benefit from visitors, do stand to gain from local homeowners and a healthy economy that attracts more homebuyers. Lawyers, accountants, doctors, dentists, plumbers, electricians, carpenters and others provide valuable services to us all, and they also have a strong interest in ensuring that there is plenty of work for them to do.
Similarly, local non-profits, whether in arts, culture or any other activity, all contribute to and benefit from a vibrant community. It is on the local scene that we can make a difference by being involved, by contributing our time or energy or money, by supporting our church or synagogue, by backing our pet projects or our local non-profits, by using local services rather than those from afar, and of course by shopping local. The Visitors' Center is manned by volunteers, and there are plenty of opportunities for retirees and others to join the list of volunteers to share the task of welcoming visitors and helping them find what Manchester has to offer. The more people on that list to share the load, the better.
The bottom line is that the town is what we make it. TripAdvisor describes Manchester as the true all-season destination. We are fortunate to live in a very attractive area and we should all be proud to blow the trumpet on what a great town we have.
Derek Boothby is a Manchester resident.
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