Ron Mancini: An investment in our future

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Over the past five years the wisdom of Manchester voters has prevailed to include money in the town budget to market Manchester. This financial support has been matched annually by private sector funds for online marketing through a dedicated website, manchestervermont.com, public radio ads and social media campaigns. Much of this work was initiated to fill the void created with the demise of the Manchester and the Mountains Chamber of Commerce, whose principal focus was on regional efforts, not Manchester.

The Manchester Business Association (MBA) has stepped up to take over that role. It is a non-profit, all volunteer organization whose mission is to promote and market Manchester by developing strategies that include advertising, promotion, and events to increase the number of visitors. In its first year the MBA utilized last year's town funds along with matching dollars from local businesses to manage the Manchester Marketing Initiative, which has been supported by the voters since 2013. Residents at our upcoming town meeting will have the opportunity to discuss and vote on the MBA's request for $50,000 to continue these marketing efforts.

What is different this year is that the funds requested for marketing are not coming out of the town budget and therefore do not add to the property tax. Instead these dollars for marketing will be coming out of the local option tax reserve fund, a pool of money accumulated over the years from unspent local option tax revenues. These dollars are sitting in a separate fund generating a modest rate of return as a backup in the event that sometime in the future there is another downturn in the economy that dramatically reduces local option tax revenue.

Since we depend on local option taxes to fund a substantial portion of our town budget, utilizing a portion of this reserve to market Manchester makes good sense and deserves voter support. It is a more proactive way to protect and enhance this fund than the modest return generated from passive investment income. It will take a 4 percent increase in taxable sales to replenish the $50,000 request. By so doing it will also add more than one million dollars to the wage base and another one million dollars in new goods, services and consumer spending.

Marketing Manchester also adds value to the money that town government currently spends for growth which includes a paid economic development officer, and the upgraded facilities to attract sporting events and the time spent by our town manager in coordinating it all and reaching out to event promoters.

Marketing Manchester will help assure that the countless hours spent by our zoning administrator and planning commission who have worked hard to write new zoning bylaws to encourage economic development and provide workforce housing will be rewarded. The road to achieving such results would be much longer and more tedious without utilizing marketing dollars to spotlight our town and all it has to offer.

We are already seeing the benefit of marketing with a rise in local option tax revenue from increased visitor traffic, and a slow return to a devastated real estate market impacted by the 2008 crash. But beyond keeping property taxes low, every resident benefits from a vibrant and healthy Manchester economy, whether it is reflected in higher wages, greater business opportunities, improved property values or better cultural and recreation assets. A yes vote on Article 8 will go a long way to achieving these goals.

Ron Mancini is a co-owner of Mother Myrick's Confectionery and a member of MBA.

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