Business on the agenda at the Shelburne Planning Commission

The Shelburne Planning Commission hopes to fill Meeting Room One on July 14 as they unveil the results of a survey of the business community. Michael Moser, a consultant from Cambridge who also works for the University of Vermont Center for Rural Studies will provide a Powerpoint presentation on what the commission learned from the comprehensive review process instigated by commission member Ann Hogan.

When the Planning Commission began updating their Town Plan several years ago, each member took charge of a section. Hogan, whose most recent career was as a commercial banker for Chittenden Bank, decided to focus on economic development. Hogan was impressed by the section’s goal: to encourage the continued growth and diversification of Shelburne’s economy in a manner that enhances the general well-being of the community, and which does not detract from the overall character of the community. “That’s a good goal and easy to subscribe to,” she said “but it sounded too abstract.”

Hogan noted that Shelburne is a great town for many things, but wondered if it was a good place to start a business. She decided the way to find out would be to ask local business people, but recognized that this wouldn’t be as easy as it sounded. “There are the obvious businesses where you see the signs and patronize them for goods and services,” she said “but there is an entire economy below the radar. There are hundreds of one and two-person businesses in homes and sheds and farms.”

With the help of Town Manager Joe Colangelo, the Shelburne Business and Professional Association, the Secretary of State, and a variety of other sources, Hogan was able to compile a list of close to 1,000 establishments.

While Hogan notes that the most economical approach would have been to conduct a survey via e-mail, the town didn’t have sufficient e-mail addresses so they whittled the list down to 600 businesses which had physical mailing addresses. An ad hoc committee, aided by a number of local and regional sources, put together a 23-question survey that was mailed with a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

The survey asked some basic questions about the nature of the business, but then inquired about what kinds of assistance the owners would like to get from the town. 182 surveys were returned, which makes for a statistically significant sample. The Chittenden County Regional Planning Commission used the information to create a map which indicates the location of each of the businesses. While most are concentrated on the Route 7 corridor, the rest are scattered throughout town. The map and the results of the survey will be presented on July 14.

“Every big business was once a small business,” said Hogan. “If we’re going to grow and develop, we really have to have diversified development. To do that, you need to know what businesses want and need and what they don’t want and need.”

Hogan hopes the small businesses of Shelburne will benefit from the analysis of the survey. “Small businesses are important,” she said. “It’s not some big abstraction. There are all these parts that are interrelated. The big quality of life picture really matters if you’re going to grow and develop the local economy.”
The Planning Commission meeting will be in Meeting Room One at 7pm on July 14.

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