This article is written by Patrick Ripley, VtSBDC Director of e-Commerce

Wilmington was one of many southern Vermont communities hit hardest by Hurricane Irene in the late summer of 2011. Its tight-knit business community has stuck together, and continues to take steps to improve awareness of what they have to offer Vermont travelers.

“Our building was five-and-a-half feet under water,” said Adam Grinold, Executive Director of the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce. “All computers, files, even the backup files, were lost in the neighboring building. We did not get our space back until February,” he said.

Since then, Grinold – who also assists with marketing for the recently established downtown business district known as Wilmington Works – has been working to ensure that the local business community bolsters its online presence, in hopes of attracting more tourism dollars to the area.

With the help of the Vermont Small Business Development Center and the Vermont Digital Economy Project, Grinold has spearheaded an effort to increase website traffic to the Mount Snow Valley Chamber website ( Patrick Ripley, VtSBDC Director of e-Commerce, helped Grinold to initiate a campaign aimed at having the Chamber’s website appear higher in Google, Yahoo and other search engine query results. This process is known in the tech community as search engine optimization (SEO).

Grinold said Chamber members had a decent understanding of this and other web marketing techniques, but needed some additional expertise to be sure how to proceed. “We had a fairly good understanding of this medium,” he said. “The Digital Economy Project helped us at a time when we needed some extra help and experience in SEO, design and implementation.”

Grinold said the recent search engine optimization efforts have already yielded higher search engine rankings, increased website traffic and community awareness.

Grinold is also working with Ripley to complete a new website for the recently established Wilmington Works business district. That website is expected to launch soon, which Grinold said could not have happened without the help of VtSBDC and the Vermont Digital Economy Project. “This allowed us to focus on an area that we would not have had the capacity or the skillset to address ourselves,” Grinold said.

“With tourism a key aspect to Wilmington businesses, we expect these efforts to lead to increased online awareness of what Wilmington has to offer travelers, many of whom will be looking for places to eat, stay and shop during their time in Vermont,” Ripley said.

“It has been a pleasure getting this assistance,” Grinold said. “Patrick (Ripley) is a knowledgeable guide and understood from the outset what our needs were and how to match us with the right program.”