The recent letter to the editor by Ms. Fennessey (Jan. 3) asking what leaders are doing in Bennington to enhance business opportunities here prompts my response. Many years ago, the BBC developed a plan identifying the retail and service needs for Bennington's downtown. A recruitment and retention committee was formed with members from the downtown businesses and others interested in a diverse and economically viable downtown experience. Over the years, there have been mild successes. While we all lament the closing of Carmody's for many of the reasons noted in the letter, it is most likely the economic downturn of the last four years that played a major role in the loss of business. Last winter's mild weather may also have added to T.J.'s loss of business. I know other downtown businesses suffered as well.
To continue, the BBC, the Chamber, the Town, the Regional Commission, and BCIC, have all joined in a comprehensive, coordinated attempt to improve the business and industrial climate here. After all, if we create more, better-paying jobs, residents may have more disposable income to spend here. It is important to note here that with K&E Plastics acquisition of the former Miller Structures building in the Morse Industrial Park, all vacant industrial spaces are occupied. We have long had a strategy of reaching to the west and south to generate interest and investment in Bennington, again with some success. Of course, we all must continue to press for more successes.
In conclusion, there is much happening here; all of it coordinated to improve efficiencies and communication. I truly believe that the economy is beginning to recover here. That bodes well for all of us. However, we must recognize that there will be challenges and changes in the months and years ahead.
Business owners such as T.J. Carmody are truly special people who commit, not only to their business, but also to their community. He is, and will continue to be a fixture here. Bennington is better off thanks to his efforts. We do wish him all the very best.
STUART A. HURD
Economic and Community Development Director