For Brattleboro, a team approach to town’s economy

Emmett Dunbar, Brattleboro Thrives’ first executive director, will aim for ‘positive projects with positive outcomes for the whole community’ as a joint endeavor of DBA, the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce, and the town planning office

BRATTLEBORO-Emmett S. Dunbar has started work as the first economic development director for Brattleboro Thrives, a committee of the Downtown Brattleboro Alliance (DBA), the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC), and the Brattleboro Planning Services Department.

"It's exciting," said Dunbar on June 3, his first day in the new job for the organization, which was created to support economic development, attract new business, and foster a vibrant community in town.

"It's about convening and bringing people together," he said.

Kate Trzaskos, a representative of Brattleboro Thrives and Downtown Brattleboro Alliance's executive director, praised Dunbar's "comprehensive experience and passion for community-driven initiatives," which make him "an invaluable asset to our mission of enhancing Brattleboro's economic landscape."

"We look forward to seeing the positive impact he will bring to our community," she said.

Dunbar, of Londonderry, most recently served as economic development director for Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) in Westminster.

He attended the University of Vermont and Marlboro College and holds a master of science degree in management and a certificate in project management.

Those credentials, he said, "have enabled me to apply effective strategic planning, change management, and business planning skills to various community-driven initiatives."

He also has more than 20 years' experience in farming and organizing at his family farm, Anjali Farm LLC in Londonderry, which has grown medicinal and culinary herbs, mixed vegetables (primarily garlic), and berries since 2001.

At the farm, he and his wife, Lini Mazumdar, have contributed to the Rockingham Free Public Library's new seed library and created farm-to-school, agritourism, and culinary programs.

He also is among the group of artists who founded the Canal Street Art Gallery in Bellows Falls.

As a municipal volunteer in Londonderry, Dunbar is a member of the Planning Commission and co-leads the South Village Master Plan Project, a comprehensive economic and community development planning process in coordination with multiple stakeholders.

He has also contributed to the town plan, the town office renovation project, the village center designation, and the solar array and other special events at the farm.

While he's technically an employee of the DBA, Dunbar is keenly aware of the potential greater outreach of the work to come and the collaborative nature of Brattleboro Thrives(1).

"It should be for more than just the downtown or Main Street, [and] it's important to recognize the position supports the greater Brattleboro community in general," he said. "It's about everyone coming together to create collaboration for everybody to do better."

'Positive projects with positive outcomes'

Dunbar explains the process as threefold: working with colleagues, with members of the three organizations, and with the community.

"It's sort of like ripples that will flood out from the DBA," he said. "Small ripple, bigger ripple, greater ripple."

"At the end of the 24-month project that is Brattleboro Thrives, we'll have outcomes that we've produced, and data and information to share with the public," he said. "This is to be coming; it's the future."

Dunbar is starting with the DBA's new strategic plan, looking for "what one or two of the action steps" that can make the organization more effective.

"Then, the DBA has its members and community in the merchants, and the Chamber has its members, so first we're going to work to push some of the strategic plan to strengthen the DBA within itself," Dunbar said.

A "second tier," he said, is about supporting members of the DBA and the Chamber - "listening and supporting them."

"It's a bit of a work plan going forward for what to do with the capacity we're building, what do we do to support members, and what do they want," he said.

The third part is supporting the "whole community."

For instance, Dunbar said, when the town hosts Gallery Walk, he'll look at that and ask, "Is there something new we can do with that?"

"I'm here to build capacity for DBA and the Chamber and the greater community," he said. "I'll be convening to support current projects and potentially create new projects, to build capacity in Brattleboro in the planning and economic development realm."

He says the result will be "positive projects with positive outcomes for the whole community to benefit from."

"The unknown is part of this," Dunbar said. "It's going to be a lot of creativity and entrepreneurial work and collaboration, and we're all going to benefit."

This News item by Virginia Ray was written for The Commons.

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