Barre Partnership: Harvesting the community's collective energy

You probably don’t think too much about rain, except when you leave your raincoat at home or you head out to your child’s baseball game, but it’s something that many of us have thought very differently about since 2011. When rain falls in rural environments like Vermont, vegetation soaks it up, filters out pollutants, replenishes ground water levels and in turn provides water vapor to our atmosphere. However, when it rains too hard the ground soil doesn’t have enough time to soak it in and water begins to rush downhill in the path of least resistance. The excess water eventually ends up in our waterways prevalent throughout Vermont’s downtowns and villages and can have devastating effects.

The Leahy Center Environmental Summit, held March 20-21 in Burlington, was designed “to inspire social and structural resiliency for flooding and floodwater issues related to climate change.” Teams from around the state worked to create a project that would help mitigate damage to private property, businesses and infrastructure. There was a poignant moment in a film depicting the aftermath of flooding that took place in 2011, but out of that moment arose a shared sense of pride and accomplishment for all the work that the participants have been working on over the last four years in their communities.

For Barre, the flooding in 2011 occurred when downtown revitalization efforts were just starting to ramp up with the Big Dig. The Barre contingency at the Leahy Summit comprised Mayor Thom Lauzon, City Manager Steve Mackenzie, Joel Schwartz from Barre Area Development Corp., and Police Chief Tim Bombardier. The process was inspiring for my work in the downtown revitalization of Barre and demonstrates the importance of collaboration among community organizations and municipalities.

As Executive Director of The Barre Partnership, I have had the opportunity to meet with many business owners and non-profit leaders, as well as community stakeholders, to learn about their work and how the Partnership can better serve them. My conversations revealed a common goal that I think we can all support: an economically vital and friendly downtown Barre.

The Barre Partnership’s mission to build and promote a revitalized downtown is entering the next phase of its evolution. My focus over the next several months will be to continue the momentum of 2014 by rolling out the new brand of The Barre Partnership in various media and with the support of members, to work closely with city leaders and economic development professionals to promote downtown Barre to prospective businesses, and to expand the Partnership’s relationship within the Barre community to attract individuals and families to its mission.

We have begun to develop our calendar of events that will include our Concerts in Currier Park series on Wednesday evenings beginning June 10; the Barre Heritage Festival from July 22-26 and Barre Merry Holidays beginning in November. We are developing new events for this year and into 2016. On April 1 the Partnership will hold a tax credit clinic for Barre’s downtown property owners in the Community Room of the Aldrich Public Library. Barre’s designated downtown and the presence of The Barre Partnership has provided $950,000 in tax credits for property owners and, in turn, has leveraged over $7 million in investment in the downtown.

The Barre Partnership is a non-profit, volunteer organization. As a non-profit, it relies on the financial support of the City of Barre and the Town of Barre, from the local business community that directly benefits from its work, and local citizens who ultimately benefit from a revitalized downtown. As our spring membership campaign begins this week, I encourage business owners to become members of The Barre Partnership. Our collective energy and resiliency will no doubt lead to further revitalization in downtown Barre.

Joshua Jerome is the Executive Director of The Barre Partnership and can be reached at 802-477-2967 or director@thebarrepartnership.com.


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