The GSFABA enters the New Year with new board members and lots of good energy! I am beginning my second full year as Executive Director and Shira Lander, our amazing Project Coordinator, completes her first year next month. ML Magrath, our new bookkeeper, will celebrate her one-year anniversary in May and I’m excited to announce that a new Race Director for the Bridge of Flowers Classic has recently come on board! Carole Appleton (read about Carole later on in this newsletter) will take over from Mike McCusker and me after this transition year, allowing Mike to become chief advisor and allowing me to focus on other GSFABA priorities. Welcome Carole!

Our goals for the coming year include continuing our economic development activities by working to attract new businesses and tourists to the region. Also, we’ll work to encourage residents to shop locally by highlighting the creative, farm, recreational, and local food businesses here. We’ll continue to work with the Franklin County Chamber and Regional Tourism Councils to promote our region, and produce the events that attract media attention, audiences, and economic activity. (See a full calendar of events below.) 

Look for our popular Business After Hours monthly networking meetings to continue. If you didn’t make it to the most recent one, at Blackmer Insurance Thursday night, you missed a great presentation about programs available through the U.S. Postal Service that will boost business and save time! Contact us for details.  We need hosts later in the Spring, so contact Shira if you’re interested. 

We also plan to present workshops this year to help you with social media, retail merchandising, and marketing plans.  If you have ideas for workshops that would be helpful, just shoot us an email.

Developing our membership is another big goal this year.  We want to make our network of businesses more robust to create a larger voice for our region.  Look for board members coming to your door in the next few months to talk about membership and how the GSFABA can serve your business and our community.

Our work with the Shelburne Falls Area Partnership continues, with a focus on developing parking options throughout the village, with particular emphasis on the parking area by Salmon Falls Gallery. We’ll also be re-applying to the state for the Cultural District Designation in Shelburne Falls. 

We’re keeping an eye on the Broadband Extension Program, as that issue is at the forefront of concerns.  According to Representative Kulick last month, the Comcast agreement to build the last mile to at least 96% coverage in the nine partial cable towns included in that program “…is progressing well...Comcast is scheduling individual meetings with each town to report on progress...and the contracted completion date for the 9 towns remains mid-August 2018.” We will keep you apprised of updates as this work progresses.

Another project is the Adams Grant-funded HATCH (Hilltown Art and Thriving Community Happenings), our community art and engagement project in collaboration with The Art Garden and Phyllis Labanowski. The second round of HATCH grants will be awarded next month; we will have funded eleven new public art projects occurring throughout the Hilltowns by June 30, 2017.

Speaking of Arts & Culture, I’m excited to announce the formation of a new, nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation under the auspices of the GSFABA, called West County Arts & Culture. This new organization will help us garner new areas of support for arts and culture initiatives, including tax-deductible charitable donations from individuals. 

It’s going to be a big year!  Please join us by beginning a new membership or renewing your current one when the time comes.  We’re also in search of volunteers to help us do our work better – volunteer to serve on a committee or at an event – if you have a special talent or interest, we can probably find a place for you to shine!

Thanks for your support and Happy New Year.  May it be peaceful and prosperous for us all.

Carmela Lanza-Weil
Executive Director

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