"You can't take over the world without a good acronym," author C.S. Wooley once wrote. It seems that these days much of Bennington is made up of these acronym organizations. Another moniker has been the "alphabet soup" organizations of Bennington. These, of course, are the BBC, the BCIC, the BCRC, ACT, BYP, BACC and so on and so forth.
With these alphabet soup organizations (and I include the Chamber/BACC in these as well), comes some confusion. Mainly, I've heard, "I can't keep track of all these organizations!" or "Another association that has a shortened nickname, great!?" I think many times confusion leads to fear and fear leads to anger or mistrust. "Why are there so many organizations doing the same thing?" This is something I hear often and can be a misleading statement. When I first came back to Bennington six years ago I felt the same thing - confusion.
This discussion about the confusion of what each organization is and does comes up often. It was even a topic at our weekly meeting at the Chamber, knowing that there is a growing concern about what these organizations are, what they do and are we duplicating efforts.
With that in mind, I'm using this piece to begin to help communicate what these organizations are and, to my understanding, why they are so vital to the future of Bennington. Additionally, my staff and I have committed one of our weekly email blasts a month to describing what's going on at each one of these organizations to better inform our members.
Here we go:
BACC: Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce: My organization is charged with promoting, leading and advocating a unified effort to maintain and improve a healthy business climate and rewarding quality of life for the surrounding Bennington area through events, tourism, business development and community engagement.
TOB: The Town of Bennington: Among many things, this organization is charged with the maintenance, upkeep and facilitation of the many amenities that make up this town. They also offer small loans and other amenities for businesses to start and grow in Bennington.
BBC: Better Bennington Corporation: Under the National Main Street Program and as part of the National Trust for Historic Preservation fund, they are the lead organization which coordinates public and private efforts to maintain "downtown" Bennington as the commercial and cultural heart of the community.
BCIC: Bennington County Industrial Corporation: Tasked with promoting quality jobs in Bennington County, they provide services and information to businesses, assist with development projects, and advocate necessary industry and commercial policies.
BCRC: Bennington County Regional Commission: This organization is responsible for planning and community development assistance to the town through preparation and implementation of town and regional plans and studies, and working relationships with local and regional organizations.
BEDP: Bennington Economic Development Partners: This group was formed as a communication and coordination effort among the various economic and cultural groups in the area. They meet monthly to understand what the various different groups are doing and how they can better collaborate. Members include the Town, Bennington Chamber, BCRC, the BBC, area colleges, and more.
BYP: The Bennington Young Professionals: a group of professional individuals, between the age of 18-45, who wish to play an active role in the shaping of the Bennington community. This group holds mixers, events and programs throughout the month.
Cultural Bennington: This group is an emerging group whose specific focus is on the cultural elements like art, music, crafts, performance and events that complement economic development.
The Lightning Jar: The Lightning Jar is a collaborative coworking space for entrepreneurs, students and professionals, located in downtown Bennington. For those looking to have start-up space to begin their business or a place to settle if they're mobile, this is a great organization.
ACT: Alliance for Community Transformation: Developed under the Drug-Free Communities grant, this group works on projects to improve the health of our communities. Their primary focus is delaying first time substance use and preventing substance abuse among youth through their various programs and educational opportunities.
Perhaps another name for these great organizations are "Organizations of Purpose." Each one is specifically designed and led to serve specific areas that make up a whole community. Let's get back to that soup metaphor. In my family we used to make this great fall harvest soup with leftover chicken or turkey scraps. After adding in the 'meat' we added a whole assortment of good things from the gardens: squash, peas, celery, onions, carrots, corn, rice, herbs, etc. It took all those ingredients to make a wonderful and hearty soup. Much like the family soup, we're creating our own soup here; one that involves various flavors and spices that when put together, in a coordinated effort, create something greater than each individual ingredient. And like the family soup, our "alphabet soup" organizations are vital and crucial to a hearty future for Bennington.
As I mentioned, I plan to keep updating what's going on at these various organizations to keep our members in the loop. I'm sure I've left a couple off and in that, my apologies. The ones I've mentioned were the organizations that the Chamber has closely partnered with, meetings I've attended, and ones I feel comfortable speaking on about their contribution.
I encourage the readers, check out some of these groups; many are looking for a bright mind and a big heart for Bennington.