Letter: Downtown Bennington Alliance wants you!

To the editor:

Two years ago, I hosted a downtown business community meeting. My hope was to start a dialogue about improving downtown and making the most of our resources. Over 60 people showed up, but few spoke. However, once the meeting ended, many people started talking in small groups. One thing I heard numerous times was that people were hesitant speaking in front of specific other people. They were willing to criticize organizations and town officials privately, but refused to voice their opinions publicly. And while I understand this reticence, I don't share the sentiment.

So as downtown continued to slide, with much-loved and long-standing businesses continuing to close each month, a group began to meet. We talked about goals and challenges for downtown, and how to organize our group. We filed paperwork with the State of Vermont a couple weeks ago, and the DBA is now officially a non-profit organization.

Our primary short term goal is to increase downtown foot-traffic through improved and increased marketing. We're also pursuing some long range goals, including the development of downtown attractions. After meeting with the Director and President of the Chamber of Commerce recently, I was excited about their spirit of collaboration. We discussed the success of their "Bennington Made" series, and how the DBA might contribute to their efforts with a complementary social media campaign.

Interest and membership — $1 annually — in our organization has grown considerably the past couple weeks. And now that we rolled out our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/downtownbenningtonalliance) and website, we are attracting a wider audience. I am excited about the buy-in of my downtown neighbors, and optimistic about making some positive change.

It is unfortunate however, that we must tolerate being called a fake organization with stupid members by the BBC Director in his bizarre Facebook post. I guess that's the leadership trend now, when you don't like something, call it fake and stupid; sound familiar? Regardless, we will attempt to collaborate with the BBC once they are ready to do so. In the meantime, we are focusing on the issues that haven't been addressed in over 20 years marketing and making downtown Bennington a destination point for both locals and travelers. We have no interest or plans to encroach on BBC organized events like Mayfest or Midnight Madness, nor do we have plans to open a welcome center. Our focus is entirely different. Which is why our name is different. With so much confusion over the B acronyms: BBC, BCRC, BCIC we want people to be able to differentiate our organization, so our name starts with D for Downtown, which is the focus of all we want to achieve.

I hope you will join us. Membership forms are available on our Facebook page.

— Joel Lentzner, Downtown Bennington Alliance



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