Ashford Economic Development Commission supports responsible business growth
By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Ashford - posted Fri., May. 13, 2011
On May 7, the Ashford Economic Development Commission held its first “Ashford Contractors & Tradesmen Fair” at Knowlton Hall. The AEDC coordinated the show in an effort to connect local businesses with each other, and to connect Ashford residents to those businesses, thus promoting a “hire local, buy local” network in Ashford. AEDC commissioners hope to make the show an annual event.
The AEDC also hopes to increase its own visibility and become a primary resource for businesses interested in Ashford. Many contractors who attended the tradeshow had no idea that the AEDC existed, until they received a postcard inviting them to participate in the show. Some said that they probably will make use of AEDC resources, now that they are aware of them.
Although many Ashford consumers paid a visit to the show, the work-friendly weather on May 7 resulted in contractors choosing to work, rather than attend the show, leaving several tables empty. Nonetheless, the AEDC was happy with the turnout.
“We have about 15 contractors that came out. We’ve never done this kind of an event before. We’re really thrilled to see how many people from the community are coming out to meet them. This was a bit of a test market, to see if this kind of event has an appeal. I think we might open this up to other kinds of businesses,” said AEDC member Margaret Chatey.
“We made 78 to 80 contacts for this event. We’re a little bit late in making contact. If anything, we’re going to try to get into the February and March timeframe,” said AEDC member Dick Williams.
The AEDC began 10 or 11 years ago. It is a volunteer organization, appointed by the Board of Selectmen.
“We have no regulatory power. We’re really here to effect change, but not from a regulatory perspective,” said Chatey.
According to the AEDC, the group’s mission is “to help with, and encourage the growth of existing businesses, while seeking the development of new business, which will be compatible with the philosophy of our rural community. The purpose of these goals is to expand our tax base in a positive manner and to enable local government to provide goods and services sought by the town and its citizens” (http://www.ashfordedc.org/about_Ashford_EDC.php).
The AEDC is particularly excited about its website, www.ashfordedc.org. “It talks about what the town is doing relative to long-range planning and other activities to promote responsible use and development of businesses in town,” said Williams.
According to AEDC Chair Ray Fenn, the website was designed to serve as a functional tool. The website offers a wealth of information to those interested in doing business in Ashford. It includes a link to a commercial real estate site finder, provides information about special planning areas in town, offers details about Ashford, provides a guide to doing business in Ashford and includes a link to www.ashfordbusiness.org, where consumers can search a database of Ashford businesses, by category, from the “directory” tab.
Ashford encourages "sustainable local-driven businesses to promote the rural nature of our town, and to preserve that. Rather than trying to bring big box stores into town, we are trying to bring more Main Street, smaller businesses into town,” said Williams.
Examples of desired, compatible businesses include a lawyer, a doctor and a bank, which is based on responses from surveys distributed to Ashford residents.
The AEDC is interested in promoting the area at the intersection of Routes 44 and 74 “as a commercial epicenter,” said Fenn.
The AEDC is also interested in promoting the area at exit 72 off of I-84, on the Ashford/Union town line.
The public is invited to attend AEDC meetings. The commission meets the fourth Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m.at the Ashford Town Offices, located at 5 Town Hall Road.
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