MBA updates public on marketing, need for involvement

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MANCHESTER — The Manchester Business Association is making progress but needs to increase its volunteer base and funding to take its efforts to the next level, the group said Tuesday at a public forum.

Organization president Paul W. Carroccio, speaking to a group of about 40 residents and business owners at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel, said the group's digital marketing efforts are already showing signs of paying off. The manchestervermont.com website is building its listings of businesses and events; 154 of the town's 253 businesses are listed on the site; and 25 percent of those who have signed up are paying for additional exposure on the site, he said.

"This proves we have a strong asset," he said.

However, as the group plans for 2018, it's cognizant that it needs more manpower, and a budget larger than the approximately $80,000 raised from private and public funding for the current initiative, Carroccio said.

"We need to raise money and volunteers," he said. "We've had a lot of the same names involved, and those people only so many funds in their pockets and so much time."

One notable gain from MBA's digital marketing campaign is the collection of demographic data that has previously been lacking, consultant Kate Pace said.

"It's a lot of leg work and a lot of test and measure," she said.

The meeting began with a brief rundown of events and initiatives that have sprung up in Manchester for this summer and fall:

- Philip Gilpin Jr., executive director of ITVFest, discussed what he's expecting from the upcoming festival, and the organization's ongoing efforts to market Manchester as a destination for independent television creators.

He's expecting about 1,100 content creators and industry executives to attend the festival, from Oct. 11-15.

Vermont does not have a state film board and does not offer tax credits, so "we are putting together a team to start attracting these productions to come here," he said.

- Town manager John O'Keefe outlined the town's efforts in attracting soccer tournaments to town, highlighting the Manchester Fall Classic, an event expecting to draw 40 teams of 10, 12 and 14-year-old boys from across the northeast. The tournament is sanctioned by the Vermont Soccer Association and U.S. Youth Soccer, and O'Keefe said a room reservation system is being put in place to help steer teams and their families to Manchester hotels. He also said he tournament will have a "village" at the site with local vendors and have a concierge on site to direct families to the resources such as restaurants

When it comes to the quality of facilities and the proximity of Manchester Center to the soccer fields, "What we have is really special," O'Keefe said. "Anyone who comes to this town is really excited about what we're offering."

- Marie Garay of Mountain Media introduced the ART Manchester program, which will have artisans stationed at three otherwise vacant retail locations throughout town featuring the Vermont Glass Guild, the Vermont Guild of Furniture Makers, Mettowee Valley Artist Collective and Southern Vermont Arts Center. The locations will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from June 30 through Labor Day.

All of these events, Carroccio pointed out, are new for this year, saying that proves "Our town is resilient."

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.

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