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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Bi-Town Planner Colvin resigns to take new position

WILMINGTON—This week, Bill Colvin, Dover and Wilmington’s first Bi-Town Economic Development Planner, announced his resignation after seven months on the job.

Dover and Wilmington hired Colvin as part of the towns’ long-term economic development strategy designed to improve their economic stability and diversify their predominantly tourist economy.

The towns charged Colvin with implementing nine shared development goals. Increasing cell phone and high speed Internet service in the connectivity-challenged Deerfield Valley topped Colvin’s list.

“I would really like to stay involved,” Colvin told Dover and Wilmington board members during a joint Selectboard meeting last week.

Colvin’s new position is with a marketing and consulting agency located closer his home in Bennington.

“It’s a great group and a great opportunity,” Colvin said. “I’m excited.”

He found the job “word-of-mouth” through connections at Williams College.

Colvin said that the agency’s work with municipalities and business chambers logically fit his economic development experience.

Prior to taking the Bi-Town position, Colvin spent over six years as Bennington’s director of community and economic development. He still holds a real estate license.

“It’s an interesting time up here,” said Colvin of the Deerfield Valley’s economic development projects.

Looking back on the past seven months, Colvin considers advancements with multiple telecommunications projects as “a major win.”

Wilmington and Dover schools have signed on to the Vermont FiberConnect project, which will bring fiber-optic networks to the two school districts.

FiberConnect is a public-private collaboration between the Vermont Telecommunications Authority and Sovernet. As part of the project, Sovernet will build, maintain, and operate 773 miles of fiber-optic cable. Sovernet will roll out the network to “anchor institutions” like schools and libraries before other community institutions, like town offices.

Earth Tone Technologies, a Massachusetts-based tower site locator company, is working on siting additional cell towers in Dover and Wilmington to help fill gaps in cell coverage gaps in the two towns.

Colvin also marks the progress made with the Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategy (SeVEDS) as a success.

Formed approximately 18 months ago, SeVEDS is an economic development group working to build a region-wide development strategy. The group’s three primary goals are increasing wages for workers, ending the region’s population decline, and increasing the regional Gross Domestic Product.

Members include business owners, municipal employees, and chambers. Three members from the Deerfield Valley sit on the core SeVEDS committee.

Colvin hopes to continue working on establishing a food and wine co-op. Although it is still in the formation stage, Colvin views the co-op as an opportunity to provide sustainable and local food products in the area.

“He [Colvin] was a very good pick,” said Wilmington Selectboard Vice-Chair Margaret L. Streeter.

Streeter praised Colvin’s ability to bring projects to fruition based on a two-dimensional document.

In an August 2010 interview with The Commons, Colvin said that he liked to focus on opportunities, rather than challenges.

True to form, Colvin thinks his resignation presents the towns with an opportunity to “take half a step back” from the Bi-Town Economic Development process.

Dover has an Economic Development Specialist, Patrick Moreland. Since the towns hired Colvin last September, Dover has had concerns that Colvin and Moreland were duplicating each other’s development efforts.

Calls to Dover Selectboard Chairman Linda Holland were not returned by press time.

Colvin’s departure will leave Wilmington without an economic development planner. He has offered to continue on in Wilmington as a consultant at 20 hours a week. The Selectboard has asked him to write up a proposal, but Colvin said that the future structure remains undecided.

“I do think we’ve got some positive momentum going and I’d like to continue to work on [projects],” Colvin said.

Streeter said that Wilmington wants to continue the Bi-Town collaboration with Dover.

But, Streeter said, if the Selectboard decides to keep Colvin on as a consultant, his focus would shift to Wilmington-specific economic development projects.

According to Streeter, voters approved a 20-hour weekly salary and benefits at Town Meeting. The money would have funded Wilmington’s portion of the Bi-Town Planner position through June 30, 2012.

“We really have time to accomplish something,” said Streeter.

The Bi-Town Economic Development plan was finalized and adopted by the Dover and Wilmington selectboards in December 2009. The towns launched the plan after three snowless winters sucker-punched the ski industry, the towns’ primary economic base.

Colvin anticipates Friday, May 6, as his last day as the Bi-Town Planner.

Dover and Wilmington selectboards will hold meetings this week to determine their next course of action.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #99 (Wednesday, May 4, 2011).

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