ENOSBURG FALLS — Residents at Thursday evening’s Enosburgh Initiative meeting said they are concerned that the community’s forthcoming economic development position be done right — but they also said the town and village boards’ work on the position so far has impressed them.
Jim Cameron, an Enosburgh native, Fairfield resident and core Initiative volunteer, proposed the economic development position during a joint meeting of those town and village boards last fall.
The coordinator, as Cameron pitched it then, would connect existing businesses with available financial resources, help new businesses start in Enosburgh and essentially market the town and village.
Cameron referred to the coordinator then as a “grant writer” position, which he later said was misleading, because grant writing would be just one of the coordinator’s broad range of economically invigorating duties.
The town selectboard agreed to create the position, but as a part-time position. Cameron and other Initiative regulars argued against doing so. They said they feared a part-time position would diminish the candidate pool and detract from the quality of those candidates, who might find full-time positions, with benefits, in other communities.
But town voters opted to make the position full-time, with benefits, during this year’s town meeting in March, after a motion made on the floor carried.
Residents in attendance at last night’s Initiative meeting gave an update on the position.
Cameron said the town’s intention is to hire Enosburgh’s first economic development coordinator in the latter half of the year.
But first the town has to define the position. Cameron said the town selectpersons have focused on ensuring the position doesn’t duplicate the duties of any other town or village personnel, and to set up a management structure for oversight of the position.
Toward those ends, the town and village jointly met Monday, during which they also sought to ensure that the position meets the needs of the village as well as the town.
Residents said the boards seemed to appreciate public turnout at that meeting. And conversely, those members of the public in attendance said last night they appreciate the board conducting these discussions in public.
Ward Heneveld said he was impressed that board members seemed to understand, and not fear, the risks that come with economic development initiatives.
“It’s different than building roads and fixing sidewalks,” Heneveld said.
Matt Miner, the village’s finance director, noted the boards recognized the position extends beyond for-profit businesses, to, as Miner put it, “all municipal efforts.”
Both Miner and Shawna Lovelette, the Enosburg Business Association’s president, agreed the boards seem focused on doing the position justice.
Lovelette said its timing is crucial, given the impending completion of the SE Group’s Vital Village project, a comprehensive plan to revitalize Enosburg Falls.
Lovelette said the plan “can’t just sit on a shelf.” The economic development coordinator will be crucial in connecting those proposals with the resources to make them reality.
Several of those in attendance at Thursday’s Initiative meeting attended a meeting of the Vital Village steering committee the night before.
Cameron was among them. He shared something that struck him at that meeting: one-third of the night’s agenda concerned grant resources, how to determine what’s available and take advantage of it.
But residents at Thursday’s Initiative meeting agreed they share one major concern about the development of this coordinator position: the boards’ perceived lack of a clear plan to move forward.
Residents said the boards agreed to continue discussions about the position, but, as Steve Wadsworth noted, board members did not make the position’s development any clearer than that.
Sandy Ferland expanded on Lovelette’s sense of urgency. Ferland said she is worried board members will find themselves in the second half of the year without progress needed to actually open the position to candidates.
Nevertheless, those in attendance agreed with Heneveld: the most productive assistance the public can render is support, not aggression.
Toward that end, volunteers agreed to attend the next meetings of the village trustees and town selectboard, respectively Tuesday, April 9, and Monday, April 15.
The Messenger will report more on the position as it develops.
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