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The Commons
Life and Work

Designated Downtowns call on Vermonters to take the 50/50 Challenge

Originally published in The Commons issue #180 (Wednesday, November 28, 2012).

Are you doing at least half of your holiday shopping with local retailers, artisans, and craftspeople?

The Vermont Department of Economic, Housing and Community Development hopes so. To support local communities, the Department has launched its 50/50 Challenge, a call to Vermonters to spend half their gift-giving budget in local downtowns this season.

Here's why: With shoppers flocking to malls and online merchants, downtowns say they are hard-pressed to preserve their traditional standing as vital community and consumer hubs.

A few area organizations are working on shoestring budgets to support their downtowns, including Building a Better Brattleboro, Montpelier Alive, the Bristol Downtown Community Partnership, and the Better Bennington Corporation.

And Vermonters stand behind their communities with more than economic support. Downtowns were strengthened by 25,000 volunteer hours this year alone.

The Vermont Downtown program was established in 1998 by the Downtown Development Act. More than 500 volunteers work to produce events, plant flowers, display holiday decorations, coordinate clean up days, and develop marketing campaigns and streetscape planning.

According to the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing, for every dollar spent downtown, more than 87 cents stays in the local community, compared to only 38 cents from purchases with national retailers. In 2011, Vermont downtowns were host to 200 new jobs, 94 new businesses and 121 building renovation projects with more than $17 million in private investments.

The 50/50 Challenge runs now through New Year’s Day. Learn more about holiday events and special promotions at, and sign up for a chance to win a gift certificate for shopping in Middlebury or Montpelier.

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