On a chilly Thursday evening in late November, members of the new downtown development group called Wilmington Works, town officials, state representatives, and Wilmington business owners gathered at the town offices to celebrate the achievements that the town of Wilmington had accomplished through the services provided by the Vermont Digital Economy Project.
“When we first met Sharon and her team, we were very excited to have them come down and help us,” said Scott Murphy, town manager, “It seemed like a gift from above!”
Certainly, the project team has been hard at work in Wilmington. Margaret Streeter, a Wilmington Selectboard member and Library Trustee, had nothing but good things to say about Justin Polnack, the Internet Intern who, thanks to the project’s EDA grant and a program created through the Community College of Vermont and the Department of Libraries, has been helping library patrons become familiar with computers, the internet, and any other digital tools they might ask for help with. “Justin has been such a great help there!” she said.
The Vermont Digital Economy Project’s partner, the Snelling Center for Government, was also working hard in Wilmington. “It’s a town that obviously had a long history of commitment to engaging citizens through the municipal website,” said the Snelling Center’s Tess Gauthier. “Through our process, we invited the public to come and give feedback about how the website could be made more useful to them.” The feedback provided the framework for a municipal website redevelopment, which is now on WordPress, an open-source platform. “It’s been created using modern standards for web development,” said Gauthier.
Thanks to the work of Rob Fish, and the help of another project partner, the Vermont Small Business Development Center, businesses and nonprofits around Wilmington were feeling the benefit of the Project’s services as well. From the new website for Deerfield Valley Rescue, to Search Engine Optimization help for the Mount Snow Chamber of Commerce, an increase in the use of digital tools by organizations throughout the town will help Wilmington stay connected, and improve its overall economic development.
And now, the Vermont Digital Economy Project has also made it possible for all of downtown Wilmington to be connected, thanks to its free public Wi-Fi zone. “There’s been a lot of groundswell for the Wi-Fi in the town, and we’re really excited to see it up and celebrated,” said Murphy. The new zone allows residents and tourists alike to log on using their mobile devices and access the internet for free. A landing page featuring local businesses will be the first website any internet user will see, hopefully bolstering local businesses as well.
Overall, the project has tied in well to the town’s efforts to move forward from the flooding that Wilmington was subjected to from Tropical Storm Irene. “When we’re done with all of this we’ll be better off than we were before Irene happened,” said Senator Robert Hartwell, “I think we already are, and the sense of cooperation that goes between all of us here in Wilmington is being replicated elsewhere too. It’s is how we’ll get where we are going, and we are going to a very very good place.”
Congresswoman Ann Manwaring agreed. “I’m really glad the town has decided to celebrate some of this, because there is just an energy now going on in town that has really kind of been here since we got into our recovery method, but now we’re really starting to see some things happening, and this is really a wonderful array of services.”
“Sharon and her team have done a great job helping us,” said Murphy.