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Shelburne Falls business group welcomes new head, sets 2016 goals


Recorder Staff
Friday, October 30, 2015
(Published in print: Saturday, October 31, 2015)

SHELBURNE FALLS — Besides promoting tourism, Carmela Lanza-Weil of the Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association, said the group wants to work more closely with west county businesses that serve the local community, to help beef up their business and improve the local economy with the onset of winter.

“We want to find ways to enliven the winter economy, to help businesses make it through the snowy days, to keep people coming through the regions,” said Lanza-Weil, at what was her first annual meeting as the business association’s executive director. The breakfast and annual meeting took place Friday in the Trinity Church lower hall.

“We’ll be looking at our membership and talking to you to see what you need, what you want and how to better cover the business community,” said Lanza-Weil. “We want to come to you on a one-to-one basis, to find out what you need. What do you need to grow your business, what local partnerships would help and what are your business goals for the coming year.”

The association will be hosting meetings and workshops over the coming year; one will be on shoplifting — a concern that could become a bigger problem as businesses and tourism grow, she remarked.

Philip S. Billitz, author of the Shelburne Falls photography book, “A Jewel in New England,” said that a Shelburne Falls Facebook page has been set up, and that the business association plans to highlight a different service business each week “so small service providers that have trouble getting out in front will have a chance,” he said.

Michael Garfield-Wright, who markets “Chunks of Energy” organic snack foods, spoke of how his business grew from single-store sales at McCusker’s Market to sales in 5,000 stores over the past 25 years. He said the value of the business rose from about $25,000 in the 1990s to about $5 million today.

“I think there’s huge potential in this business,” he said of the growing organic food industry. He said the local area is a good place to grow a food business, given the Franklin County Community Development Corp. food kitchen, the farms and the market for organic food.

State Rep. Stephen Kulik gave an update on west county broadband news, saying that the Massachusetts Broadband Institute has approved Comcast and Matrix Tech Solutions to provide last-mile broadband service to partially served cable towns. He said Montague and Petersham will be working with both companies, while the west county towns with partial cable service will be working with Comcast “to build out to 96 or 97 percent” of the towns.

“State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, announced that the state Senate has voted to raise the solar net-metering cap, which will enable those with solar photovoltaic systems to sell more solar-generated energy to the utility grid. Mark is the lead sponsor of the bill, which now goes to the House of Representatives for a vote. He was pleased that state House Speaker Robert DeLeo chose to announce the Senate’s passage of the bill last week at the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce breakfast.

Highlights for the association this year included: the 20th anniversary of the Shelburne Falls Village Partnership between Buckland, Shelburne and GSFABA; the fourth year of Shelburne Falls’ designation as a cultural district; the success of the 37th annual Bridge of Flowers Road Race in raising money for local charities; that tickets to this year’s Iron Bridge Dinner sold out in less than one day; and the “movie stars” installed by Ashfield Stone to commemorate local places that were filmed for Hollywood movies “Labor Day” and “The Judge.”

“One of the biggest accomplishments is we’re still here after Mary (Vilbon) left,” Lanza-Weil said of her predecessor, who took a new job this summer.

“Carmela is the right person for this job,” Michael McCusker told her. “Nobody’s ever going to fill Mary’s shoes, and nobody should try. Each (business association) leader has their own shoes — but the shoes that you’re bringing are the right shoes for right now.”

You can reach Diane Broncaccio at: dbroncaccio@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 277