Defining community goals and exploring pathways to economic vitality
2014’s Mad River Valley (MRV) Economic Study analyzed the local economy, researched obstacles and opportunities and recommended actions that support economic vitality. The study was shared at a well attended community gathering (2014 MRV Economic Study) that included opportunities for input to guide next steps. While the study and summit provided some recommendations for increasing economic vitality, the suitability of these recommendations required further discussion within the larger business community to learn what’s working and what is needed for businesses to be successful.
As a next step, the MRV Vision & Vitality Steering Committee, comprised of representatives from the MRV Planning District (MRVPD) and the MRV Chamber of Commerce (MRVCC) as well as six members at large, began a community engagement process to develop a community-held vision and a deeper understanding of business needs.
Through the summer and fall of 2015, the MRVPD, MRVCC and a local volunteer business consultant led the Economic Vitality Series (EVS), a 10-workshop series designed to create a discussion with the business community around the issues and opportunities that arise while doing business in the MRV. In what was termed a “tsunami” of interest and input from over 150 workshop attendees as well as survey respondents from the broader community, several themes emerged, which the steering committee organized into asset and issue areas. These were further refined at a culminating workshop of sector representatives. Four asset areas, Recreation, Creative Economy, Wellness, and Food System, as well as the top priority issues, marketing, economic development and business support, were identified to inform the work plan of the Chamber of Commerce.
Following these workshops, the process and the areas of focus were shared with the larger community at a second Economic Summit, held on December 19th with over 250 attendees. The summit included the unveiling of a MRV Vision Statement and presentation by community members and business owners who had formed well-organized alliances: Wellness Alliance, MRV Food Network, Creative Economy, and Recreation as a result of participating in the workshops. To get involved in these effots, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
MRVPD further aligned its 2016 work plan priorities with those identified during the workshops addressing three resounding concerns that emerged as economic drivers, not simply social issues: Affordable Housing, Transportation, and Placemaking. Summit attendees were invited to learn more and sign up for ongoing engagement with the newly organized groups, as well as existing ones (MRV Housing Coalition, MRV Transportation Advisory Committee, Waitsfield Planning Commission), to help guide strategic planning in these areas over the next year. To get involved in these efforts, contact email@example.com.
In addition to this work, the Steering Committee identified a goal to explore development of an economic dashboard of metrics that will help chart progress, and to seek funding mechanisms that will support needed infrastructure and investment.
Another major focus of the work ahead is to continue to support the “tsunami” – by continuing to engage all those interested/passionate community members from the workshops AND their friends AND colleagues to continue to collaborate, educate and design our way to economic vitality.
The Steering Committee is currently redefining its work and composition as well as defining its strategic plans to ensure support and development of the right focus items as the MRV’s economic vitality gathers more steam.
MRV Economic Initiatives and Resources
Vision & Vitality Series
The MRV has a history of engaging in community visioning, as illustrated in the three town plans, 1980 MRV Perspective Series, 1990 Valley Forum Series, and 2004 Valley Vision 2020. The MRVPD has reviewed and distilled these important documents into a Summary of MRV Vision Intiatives. The goal of this exercise was to identify both the MRV community’s evolution as well as its common values and concerns. This information served as context for the MRV Visions Statement, which was further developed from the most current town plans in Fayston, Waitsfield and Warren. This vision, which is intended to evolve, served as a framework and backdrop for the economic conversations that took place throughout the Economic Vitality Series.
Through the summer and fall of 2015, the MRVPD, MRVCC and local business consultant Patricia Floyd, led the Economic Vitality Series (EVS), designed to create a discussion with the business community around the issues and opportunities that arise while doing businesses in the MRV. The 10 community workshops took place in each of the MRV's industry sectors. The sector definitions can be found here.
2014 MRV Economic Summit & Community Picnic
Results from these studies were presented to the community at the MRV Economic Summit & Community Picnic on June 4th, 2014, hosted by MRVPD and the MRV Chamber of Commerce. The Summit highlighted significant economic changes that have transpired over the past three decades as well as identified emerging trends, opportunities, and challenges. Public input was provided regarding the Valley’s economic future, vitality, and resilience.
Mad River Valley Economic Study
This project focused on understanding and quantifying the Valley’s economic profile and economic health by assessing relevant data and interviews, identifying industry sectors of strategic importance, establishing a MRV economic baseline, and exploring initiatives that support our economic future. The study was commissioned by The Mad River Valley Planning District and completed by a consultant team consisting of SE Group, Birchline Planning LLC & Doug Kennedy Advisors. A 2013 Municipal Planning Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development and a contribution from the MRV Chamber of Commerce funded the study. The consultant team presented the results from the project’s analyses at the 2014 MRV Economic Summit & Community Picnic..
- MRV Economic Study (June, 2014)
Vermont Downtown Action Team Reports for Waitsfield & Warren Villages
The Villages of Waitsfield & Warren were two of seven villages or downtowns affected by Tropical Storm Irene that served as the focus of action-oriented planning projects aimed at strengthening identity and economic vitality. Directed by the VT Downtown Program, the Vermont Downtown Action Team (V-DAT) worked with Warren & Waitsfield last year to develop long-range economic development plans and strategies for targeted flood resilience work. Lead project consultant Tripp Muldrow will present results from the project’s retail market analysis