Northfield residents to consider new economic development director position

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NORTHFIELD — On Town Meeting Day, Northfield residents will vote on the creation of its first Economic Development Director position, a new town employee reporting to the Northfield Town Manager.

The new Economic Development Director will work to encourage skilled workers and businesses to move to Northfield, help local businesses scale and thrive by assisting them with tax credits and grant opportunities, and promote the community through cooperative marketing.

Since Tropical Storm Irene in 2011, Northfield has seen multiple businesses close or relocate, representing not just a hit to its tax base and local employers, but also to the morale of the community.

But the energy and resilience of the town of 6,200 is strong, and the last nine years have seen impressive growth in community groups, operating local non-profits, and both citizen and Select Board led initiatives to move beyond the losses to showcase a vibrant community.

The new Economic Development Director position seeks to capture that momentum and continue to achieve what volunteer groups and non-profits often struggle with, which they say is time, expertise, and resources to welcome new residents, new businesses, and new visitors to town.

“There have been many groups over the past forty years that have tried to help, promote, improve Northfield,” said Jill Donahue, owner of the Northfield Pharmacy. “A lot of great ideas have been put forth. These all have seemed to fade away due to lack of time, energy, resources of the groups.”

Northfield Community Development Network (NCDN), a local non-profit organization, partnered with community groups to get the initiative on the ballot for direct vote by residents this Town Meeting Day.

“After reviewing impact studies and looking to what some of our successful neighboring towns are accomplishing with an Economic Development Director, we met with the Select Board Budget Committee to explore this proposal,” said Kaitlyn Keating, NCDN volunteer.

“Ultimately, this community is full of dozens of great organizations whose volunteers are passionate about this town and the direction we would like to be heading. Putting this ballot measure up before our friends and neighbors on March 3rd is really about asking Northfielders to take ownership of what kind of community they want and how successful they want it to be by supporting this ballot initiative.”

The Economic Development Director will be a part-time municipal employee, initially proposed for an exploratory commitment to the position of three years in order that the role’s effectiveness can be measured.

The funding proposed for the first year of the position would be two-thirds from Northfield’s existing Economic Development Fund, and one-third totaling $10,488 from current taxes.
Vermont State law does not allow for multi-year funding commitments on Town Meeting questions, so the question of funding beyond one year will be addressed in the future.

A dedicated professional working to grow business opportunities, retain jobs, write grants, and partner with Northfield’s passionate community volunteers represents an investment in the future of the community.

Neighboring communities such as Barre, Waterbury, and Montpelier have leveraged their Economic Development Directors to grow their tax base and showcase their towns as places for businesses to invest, move, and grow.

Northfield Annual Town Meeting will begin with an Open Session on Monday, March 2, 2020, at 6:30 p.m. in the Mary Granai Corrigan Auditorium at the Northfield Middle/ High School.

Voting on all Australian Ballot Articles will take place on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the lobby of the Northfield Middle/High School.

Early voting is currently available at the Northfield Municipal Building.