Celebrating Vermont downtowns and their strength
Preservation Trust of Vermont hosts annual conference in Wilmington
By Olga Peters/The Commons
Link to Full Article: http://www.commonsnews.org/site/site05/story.php?articleno=5581&page=1
WILMINGTON—The Preservation Trust of Vermont gave awards to five Wilmington organizations and individuals at its annual conference held on June 8 in Wilmington’s Town Hall.
The trust commended Friends of the Valley Foundation, Wilmington Vermont Fund, Flood Stock, Deerfield Valley Rotary, and Lisa Sullivan and Philip Taylor of Bartleby’s Books for their collective work in rebuilding Wilmington after Tropical Storm Irene.
“Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011, is a day that will forever be remembered in many parts of Vermont,” wrote the Trust in its awards narrative. “In Wilmington, local residents, second home owners, business owners and visitors literally stood by and watched the raging Deerfield River rise and take over their village as a result of the torrential rains from Tropical Storm Irene.
“We have all heard and seen the stories of what happened – buildings flooded or washed away, roads collapsed, businesses destroyed, people left homeless. The collective response to the flood, and the immediate effort and effectiveness to rebuild, demonstrates a deep commitment to partnership and perseverance in the name of the greater community.”
The Friends of the Valley Foundation, founded by Lynn Bucossi, Kevin Ryan, and Chris Zizza, provide community members with scholarships for camps and colleges and grants for a person or family in a crisis situation. After Irene, the foundation worked toward rebuilding the severely flooded North Star Bowl bowling alley on Route 100. The team has also pledged to help rebuild Dot’s Restaurant.
Also committed to Dot’s, Tamara and Daniel Kilmurray, second home owners in the area for more than 10 years, started the Wilmington Vermont Fund with a donation of $250,000. According to the Trust, the foundation purchased the Parmelee & Howe Building at the corner of Route 9 and Route 100 north, and provided financial resources to businesses.
“These are not just businesses they are people’s lives,” said Daniel Kilmurray.
In a separate interview, board member John Gannon said the fund hopes to find a tenant for Parmelee & Howe after it completes renovations. The challenge, he said, is attracting someone with the business savvy to build a business in Wilmington’s cyclical economy.
Rep. Ann Manwaring, D-Wilmington, is also involved with the Wilmington Vermont Fund. She said that new business owners must commit to producing an “outstanding product” to attract customers. Vermont does well in producing quality and Wilmington will strengthen overtime, she said.
Wilmington and Dover’s economies are primarily tourism-based. Manwaring suggested that new entrepreneurs build non-tourism based businesses.
“It needs to happen,” she said. “Not just here [but across Vermont], but we’re working for here.”
Manwaring asserted that saving struggling businesses requires a sea change in Vermont. After Irene, recovery resources have flowed mostly to homeowners. The state and funding agencies place businesses into the “rubric of economic development.” Businesses owners receive loans, and rarely receive grants, as homeowners do.
In Vermont, most business owners are individual owner/operators struggling as much as independent homeowners, she said.
At issue, said Manwaring, is that “businesses don’t vote, and homeowners do.”
If the state wants to build jobs it needs to support businesses, she added.
The fund has raised more than $475,000 with a goal of $3 million.