New Dover development director settling in to job
by Lauren Harkawik
Jul 27, 2017 | 3060 views | 0 0 comments | 140 140 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Outgoing economic development director Ken Black, left, and Dover Selectboard chair Randall Terk, right, flank Steve Neratko at a welcome reception held Wednesday at the Dover Forge. Neratko is taking over for Black, who is retiring.
Outgoing economic development director Ken Black, left, and Dover Selectboard chair Randall Terk, right, flank Steve Neratko at a welcome reception held Wednesday at the Dover Forge. Neratko is taking over for Black, who is retiring.
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DOVER- At the start of his second week, Dover’s new economic development director, Steve Neratko, says he’s still settling in, getting his bearings on the new town he’s landed in and the work he’ll be involved in here. He’s been busy this week meeting residents and business owners, including Mount Snow.

“I’m very excited to work closely with Mount Snow,” says Neratko. “Their plans for the next five to 10 years look excellent.”

With Mount Snow as its winter anchor, Dover has in recent years made a major push toward a year-round tourism economy, an effort that Neratko is excited to support.

“There’s a lot that can be done here,” says Neratko. “We want to make sure that the bed and breakfasts and restaurants here are all getting enough business to stay open. So we want to make sure that year-round, there’s stuff to do here.”

Neratko most recently worked as chief planner and director of planning and zoning in Allentown, PA, where he took on many projects aimed at revitalizing Center City Allentown, a downtown district that Neratko says was, for many years, a government center and office area. Recently, there has been an effort to bring more businesses and residential buildings into the district.

“As part of that, we managed about a billion dollars of development,” says Neratko. As residential development in Allentown’s center city grew, Neratko was tasked with ensuring that necessary services were in place in the district for those who were moving there. To support that work, Neratko and his team created the Upside Allentown initiative, which aimed to promote a high standard of living while also making the area attractive to visitors.

“There were over 100 businesses that were a part of (Upside Allentown),” says Neratko. “And it looked at all issues, from education to economic development to beautification.”

Prior to Allentown, Neratko was the director of development for the city of Dunkirk, NY, where he notably brought in a lot of grant funding to address longstanding infrastructure issues that were in great need of attention. One notable project was fixing a seawall along Lake Erie. “It was very deteriorated,” says Neratko. “If you were standing on the road you could see down and through the road and out to the beach. It was in really bad shape.”

Neratko was able to secure funding to repair the seawall and bring other activities to the beach area, including a splash pad, a new playground, and a dual-use ice-skating and roller-skating rink. “We really wanted to look at the whole picture,” says Neratko. “Not just fix what was there, but try to improve the situation for residents and for people who visited the community.”

Coming from Allentown, where he and his wife Ashley lived in a downtown urban setting, the Deerfield Valley is a major change. “But we’re excited about it,” says Neratko. “It’s a rural community, but there’s a lot going on here.”

Neratko says he always liked the idea of living in Vermont. He spent some time as a kid in upstate New York, near Plattsburgh, and liked the rural setting and scenery. He and his wife started taking trips to Dover about six months ago, first for Neratko to interview for the job and then to find somewhere to live.

“When we came up here, we just had a great time,” says Neratko. “And everyone we met was so friendly.”

The Neratkos found a place in Newfane, where they have some land and hope to do some farming, including raising dairy goats. “It’s something we’ve both always been interested in,” says Neratko.

Neratko says he’s excited to hear ideas from Dover’s residents and business owners and to help those ideas come to fruition. “I have great ideas I think,” says Neratko. “But I also take a lot of pride in being able to help other people push their ideas forward. They may have a great idea and just don’t know how to move forward. I really enjoy doing that.”
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