LIFE IN THE SHIRES
“We could do that…” I pondered at a meeting a month ago as the Regional Economic Development (RED) group met to discuss becoming part of a larger CEDS (Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy) process with Windham County. It was more than just the overall idea that “we could do that” came to mind. It was that the Windham County CEDS had already identified very real, practical barriers to living in southern Vermont. Not surprisingly, some of it was around the communication of already existing societal assets. We had them, but people didn’t know where to go to find them.
I scribbled those immediate needs down on my pad of paper with a headline over them, “What do people need to know right now to make their move to Southern Vermont an easier decision?” Under that headline I wrote those immediate needs, “general information about the town or county, job availability, home availability, school options for k-12, and daycare options.” I looked at these (note: there are probably more, but these are what came up as most critical) and thought, “We could do that.”
What I meant was, that there is good wisdom in the long game, the building of strategy, the planning phase. Remember Abraham Lincoln who said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Any of you who know me, know I’m a man of planning! However, there is also low-hanging fruit that doesn’t need a strategic plan to tell us that this is a need and we can do this now, today!
I got on my phone (yes, in a meeting) and texted my office instructing them to start to build, as part of our website, a side category under our main headers that read, “Life in the Shires.” I wanted the ability that if someone were to hover over the category a list of sub categories would appear leading the visitor to those sub categories if clicked. What were those sub categories? You guessed it: general info about the town or county, job availability, home availability, school options for k-12 and daycare options.
I sketched out the look of it on my pad of paper, took a picture of it with my phone and sent the message and photo to the Chamber team. A week later we had this function on our website, Bennington.com. We now have a page on the website dedicated to each one of these categories. We worked “widgets” onto each page from websites that aggregate the larger data. A widget is a small application that can be installed within a web page for the visitor that draws data from the original source. We knew we wouldn’t be able to keep up with the streams of data like new job availability and new houses on the market. Thankfully we have websites that can do that and we can focus them in on Bennington County. So we used widgets from more popular sites like Indeed.com, Zillow.com, and SchoolFinder.com.
Since June 20th we’ve seen the general information category receive 132 visits, the home category receive 76 visits, the school category receive 42 visits, and the daycare receive 22 visits. Imagine that these visitors visited Bennington.com and hopefully, had some of their relocation questions answered! Hopefully, we brought them a little bit closer to saying, “Yes! Let’s move to the Shires of Vermont!”
I write all of this because I want to show the nimbleness that is needed in this current world, the aggressiveness we sometimes have to have to push ideas to the “go” phase fast. The balance we need to have between well thought-out plans and rapid-fire, idea execution. The world will not wait idly by as the Shires (or any other place in the world) waits. This is a world of action, and we need to adapt to it. If we hear good ideas, if we are in positions to make those ideas happen, and if we have the tools and talent to bring those ideas to life, then let’s go do it.
Executive Director | Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce