This paves the way for implementing Wilmington Works, a committee that will work to enhance the business and economic environment of the downtown. Wilmington Works will be a committee of the Wilmington Fund VT, which serves as the committee’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt financial sponsor, as required by the program. The Wilmington Selectboard has also committed funds to Wilmington Works for this, and next year’s, fiscal years, using matching grant funds.
After Tropical Storm Irene, FEMA worked with the town to establish a long-term community recovery plan, and identified approximately two dozen projects that could have positive impacts and help the town most in achieving recovery goals.
Downtown designation was chosen as a high priority by the town, and former selectboard chair Tom Consolino was named project champion. Consolino, town manager Scott Murphy, economic development specialist Gretchen Havreluk, and Wilmington Fund VT member John Gannon spent 18 months putting together the plan, and applying.
According to Murphy, Wilmington Works will provide structure and support for downtown businesses, and organize efforts to improve the town’s economy. This will be accomplished through four subcommittees that report to a board of nine to 11 volunteers. Those subcommittees will consist of organization, economic development, promotion, and design.
For business owners, Murphy says Wilmington Works will provide multiple benefits by consolidating the efforts of the many existing committees in town, which, he says, with time might evolve into parts of the subcommittees. “The one benefit they’re (business owners) going to see first and foremost is the organizational affect,” said Murphy. “Right now we have various committees that work randomly and not in conjunction with each other and this will pull them all together.”
Murphy also noted the financial impact of the program, which opens the town up to apply for more 50-50 match grants that are easily accessible, and were not available under the town’s former status as a village. “Now that we’re a designated downtown, when we apply for other state grants, they can look at that and it will help us get extra credit points toward getting more grants.
“This would also be an asset to someone looking to move into our downtown, and will help to create a vibrant downtown.”
Part of the program’s criteria was proper mapping of the proposed downtown, and with help from the Windham Regional Commission, the town was able to create maps for the application, a process which Murphy says was easy due to Wilmington’s well-defined downtown business area. The program requires that the proposed downtown area not stretch unreasonably past the downtown businesses in any direction.
The Wilmington Works board will be composed of two members designated by the Wilmington Fund VT, two designated by the selectboard, two property owners in the district, two business owners in the district, and a member of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as other community members. The majority of Wilmington Works board members must also be residents of the town. Each position will be a three-year term, and Murphy says there has already been a great deal of interest.
The program application was supported by nearly 60 signatures from downtown business and property owners alike.