Bristol EDC: Looking forward in 2014
Roundtable discussions with various businesses sectors will be the focus of the town's Economic Development Commission in 2014.
The eight-member EDC went through a transition period this year, when it learned that the town would not be filling the Economic Development Director's position left vacant by Allen Chrismans. As such, it's accomplishments in 2013 were minimal, namely Movies in the Park, which will fall under the Parks and Recreation Department next year.
With that, EDC members have regrouped, centering its focus on current businesses in Bristol for 2014: What makes them thrive, their needs, and what, if anything, the town can do to help their growth.
Starting in January, the EDC identified six sectors to focus on over its next six meetings — manufacturing non-marine, marine trades, real estate, education, agriculture, and commercial fishing.
"We want this to be an intimate roundtable discussion to get their opinions and voices heard," said Ethan Tucker, chair of the EDC, during its Dec. 9 meeting. "We want to get their feedback and hopefully ID the ones that are struggling and the ones with potential growth."
The notion of roundtable discussions "dovetails" something that Explore Bristol is already doing, said Mike Byrnes, co-chair of Explore Bristol.
"We created a list of questions, very basic, to get the dialogue going," he explained.
Explore Bristol was initially a project of the EDC. It was created as an outreach effort to Bristol businesses to find out their needs, and whether or not they were being met. The project has since blossomed into an independent economic organization, which markets Bristol to visitors, prospective businesses and residents.
"It's important that businesses feel that they have a voice," said Mr. Tucker. "We want them to feel engaged with their local government."
The town also does not have an inventory of current businesses, aside from the tangible tax list provided by the state, said Diane Williamson, Community Development Director.
"Keeping a inventory was nearly impossible," she said. "The person who did it for the EDC had this huge spreadsheet, like a mile long with all these columns. Within a blink of an eye, it's outdated. It needed to be updated constantly."
Maintaining a list may require a point person, said Town Councillor Tim Sweeney.
The EDC is also working to create a website that would serve as a resource for Bristol businesses, supplying information on local, state and federal levels.