Economic development efforts need more local participation
by Lauren Harkawik
Apr 20, 2017 | 1491 views | 0 0 comments | 84 84 recommendations | email to a friend | print
DOVER- At its meeting on Tuesday evening, the Dover Selectboard heard from Southern Vermont Deerfield Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sharon Cunningham, who said much more participation is needed in a data collection initiative intended to help with marketing efforts being spearheaded by the chamber and the Bi-Town Marketing Committee. The board also approved a funding request for the Wine and Harvest Festival, and gave police chief Randy Johnson the go-ahead to sell a police cruiser.

Last month, the chamber of commerce introduced a custom-built digital dashboard to assist with collecting data from local businesses. The chamber requested that business owners log in once a week to share basic sales information, such as how many tops were serviced at restaurants, how many rooms were occupied versus how many were available at inns, and how many transactions occurred at retail locations.

The chamber held a meeting to introduce the dashboard to business owners, which economic development director Ken Black attended. “A couple of weeks ago I attended a meeting where users were going to log in and try the digital dashboard, which is pretty simple,” said Black. “But getting people to show up and do it is not as simple. I think there were three people there. It needs a much bigger effort in terms of trying to get the word out and getting people to do this.”

The dashboard was created as part of an overall push to boost tourism marketing in the valley through increased web traffic to the chamber’s website. “The analytical reports do show that the chamber site is getting more penetration,” said Black. “It’s tough to make an exact determination, but something’s working.”

Cunningham said that in addition to Google analytics reports, data from businesses will add information that will be helpful in measuring the marketing effort’s effectiveness. “The reason we need participation isn’t just because this is great data to have,” said Cunningham. “It’s also another way to measure the effectiveness of the actual marketing we’re doing.”

Cunningham said the business owners who have been introduced to the system thus far have had no trouble understanding how to use it. “The goal was to make it extremely user friendly so it’s easy to participate,” said Cunningham.

“You’re going to have to make a huge effort to mobilize and get out there,” said vice chair Victoria Capitani. “It’s not going to be useful at all if you don’t populate that with data. It’s going to be a lot of effort. They’re not going to come to you.”

Chair Randall Terk said it was suggested at a recent bi-town meeting that someone be hired short-term to make contact with each business and walk them through the process. Black agreed that one-on-one sessions may have more impact than a special meeting.

Cunningham was also in attendance to discuss a request for funding for the Wine & Harvest Festival, which is slated for September 22-24. Black walked the board through the funding application.

“Last year the event at Mount Snow was only on Saturday,” said Black. “They’re adding some fun types of events along Route 100 on Sunday. It’s a pretty interesting way to expand the event, and preceding it with Restaurant Week is a great idea as well. This is one of Dover’s premiere events, it’s a great one, and I think we should continue to support it.”

“I’ve gotten feedback for the last few years from Dover businesses,” said Cunningham. “They said they would really like to see part of the festival on Route 100 to make it more visible. We had some great feedback when we did children’s activities during the blueberry parade there last year, so that inspired me to say let’s try something in that same stretch.”

The board approved the requested funding amount of $10,325, up $3,000 from last year’s contribution.

In other news, police chief Randy Johnson said he no longer thinks it’s a great idea to hold onto an old police cruiser for official town use. Last month, Johnson suggested it might be useful to hold onto the car rather than sell it, if there was interest. He subsequently connected with town officials to gauge interest. Of the town officials he asked, only three showed interest in using the car periodically, and then one of the three backed out.

“I think we should either get rid of it,” said Johnson, “or we can try it for a year and see how it works.”

The board quickly said Johnson should get rid of the car. It will be listed for sale.

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