Community weighs in on Destination Manchester plans

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MANCHESTER—Many residents and business owners expressed their concerns at a public forum for the Destination Manchester business group on Monday night at the Taconic Hotel.



More than 50 people attended the forum and about a quarter of those asked questions after a presentation. Northshire Bookstore owner Chris Morrow opened up with a slideshow that's been presented at a previous select board meeting as well as another public forum.



"I think we have a lot of potential to work together collaboratively to really build Manchester and the whole area and region into a much more vital place," Morrow said.



He added that if the community doesn't take action to market itself quickly, it runs the risk of experiencing economic decline.



If everything goes as planned, Morrow said the group would move forward by summer.



"I am here because I am not seeing an increase in business in this town and I see a lot of other towns that are aggressively marketing themselves and I would like to see Manchester to have the ability to do the same thing," said Amy Chamberlain, owner of The Perfect Wife restaurant and tavern and member of Destination Manchester.



A general concern regarded commercial property owners being forced to pay an assessment tax that wouldn't exceed 10 cents per $100.



Clarification was made in that if an individual owns a business and lives at that business, such as a hotel, then the assessor would make arrangements. The same goes for a resident who has a private business in the home.



Others noted that they're not a resident of Manchester, and can't vote in the town, but own a business in the town. Some suggested the entire town get taxed for the assessment instead of just business owners.



"I don't like the tone of the conversation that Manchester is in a decline," said Lana Hauben, president of Manchester Designer Outlets. "I think we have to start counting our blessings and looking at all the positive incredible things that are taking place in this area."



The business group's goal is to focus on the town's marketing, while at the same time, the Shires of Vermont Regional Marketing Organization, the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce and the Bennington County Industrial Corporation work to develop a super regional partnership with Windham County.



Dina Janice, artistic director of the Dorset Theatre Festival wondered why the group wouldn't take a regional approach to marketing, considering surrounding communities.



"Certainly with all these businesses coming into town, it makes sense to think of Manchester centrically, but all the studies that have been done in the state have pointed to regional thinking," she said. "What are the actual drill downs on how you would be collaborating, for instance, with Bennington now with their investment, with Stratton and that area."



"If we can effectively bring more people to our town of Manchester, those people in return will buy tickets to the theatre festival," said Paul Carroccio, owner of TPW Real Estate, Destination Manchester member and member of the Bennington County Industrial Corporation. "Because it's something we will likely promote as something to do. Manchester doesn't have a professional or community theatre. By virtue of [Destination Manchester's] strengths, the outlying region will benefit from that."



"We realize that our community is what it is because of their surrounding communities," Bill Drunsic, owner of the Spiral Press Cafe and Destination Manchester member added.



Reach staff writer Makayla-Courtney McGeeney at 802-490-6471 or @MC_McGeeney.


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