Letter: Bennington's hotel study misses the point

Like the Select Board, we would like to see downtown thrive. The Select Board recently contracted for a $10,000 hotel feasibility study. Unfortunately, they put the cart before the horse.

We need to champion current shops and fill our empty storefronts. Give people more reasons to come to Bennington. If downtown is thriving, hotel developers will come clamoring without the town chasing them with a feasibility study (free-of-charge) and the tax subsidies and grants that will inevitably follow.

The study looked to see if another hotel could take enough business from current establishments to be viable. It does not ask if the new town-sponsored-hotel would bring more people to Bennington. In other words, aren't we just shifting patrons from one establishment to another?

We have all witnessed the loss of Greenberg's after Home Depot. O'Malley's after PetCo. The Alexandra Inn and The Kirkside after the Hampton Inn. Bennington is an historic treasure with quintessential Vermont charm — do we really want to be just another exit off the highway? Is a boutique hotel with a central reservation desk in Utah or Malaysia going to refer overflow to another Bennington Hotel? Will their dollars stay local? Our local hotels aggressively promote our small businesses and historic sites.

The study did not use hard data. Instead, they asked our friends and colleagues at the local colleges, hospital and other organizations to guestimate their perceived lodging and amenity needs. Unfortunately, this is anecdotal at best and does not utilize the years of actual data that our current establishments have.

Before our Select Board allocates anymore funds to this hotel, let's instead work to fill the void of lost manufacturing jobs with energy jobs, robotics or composites. We are ranked #17 by the National Center for the Arts Research Center. Why not leverage that and invest in an Arts Incubator or downtown artist lofts?

Increase the events that are proven to draw visitors, i.e., Garlicfest. Build on our micro-brew success. Launch an online calendar to promote the great things Bennington already offers. Help current establishments improve/expand meeting space or build a convention center to attract large groups.

Or, imagine what the lovely Cake Gallery or an imaginative store like Fiddleheads could have done with the $10,000 that was just spent.

We are not anti-new-business, just disappointed to see our grant money spent so poorly chasing another hotel. We would like to see the Putnam block restored to its full glory and to see our downtown thrive. Let's find a solution that truly brings new traffic, not just rob Peter to pay Paul.

— Lynn Green, on behalf of: Paradise Inn, Eddington House Inn, Four Chimneys Inn, Best Western Bennington, Knotty Pine Motel, Hampton Inn, Bennington, South Shire Inn, Bennington Station Restaurant, Anytime Fitness, Mount Anthony Country Club, Safford Mills Inn, Harwood Hill Motel, and Taraden B&B



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