Is This Town Big enough for the Two of Us?

Posted on 3/1/2018 by Fred Kenney

As I get to know Addison County better and meet all the great business owners, entrepreneurs, and partner organizations, one question I hear is: “What is the difference between the Addison County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC) and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce?  Why would I call one or the other? Do we need both? While there are some areas of overlap, the primary difference is focus.

ACEDC’s mission is to be the resource for navigating opportunities and challenges for new and existing businesses in Addison County.  We do that in two ways. First, through one-on-one interactions with entrepreneurs and business owners to understand the impediments to your success and growth. Then, helping to find and implement the appropriate solutions. This can range from technical assistance and counseling by the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), to understanding and accessing the capital continuum, to engaging the Vermont Manufacturing Extension Center (VMEC) to assist with setting up a new manufacturing line, to ferreting out the few grants available for business start-up and expansion, to assembling finance packages involving commercial lenders, the Vermont Economic Development Authority (VEDA), alternative lenders, or our own Revolving Loan Funds. An important aspect of providing these business growth services is that we act as a one-stop shop for all local, regional, State and Federal business resources. If we don’t have what you need, we’ll find it and bring it to you, saving valuable time and resources. ACEDC focuses on improving the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and growing and expanding existing businesses. ACEDC also works on attracting and recruiting new businesses, but that is secondary to encouraging job creation through entrepreneurship, local start-ups, and growth of existing businesses. ACEDC will help any size or type of business, but we primarily work with value-add businesses such as manufacturers, business and professional service companies, technology and IT, tradespeople, value-add agriculture and forestry, and specialty food and beverage companies.

Second, ACEDC acts as a convener. If there is an issue impacting economic and community development in our region, we can and have brought together the appropriate experts and stakeholders to address the issue in a way that works for Addison County. We regularly convene a small group of entrepreneurs to identify and discuss common problems. We bring together all the region’s partners that are involved in community and economic development for a regular monthly meeting. We convene working groups on workplace safety, human resources, and workforce development.

The Chamber’s stated mission is to enhance the economic vitality of Addison County.  They do this in part by operating the region’s visitor center; marketing all, and producing some of, this region’s great events; responding to inquiries from residents or would-be residents; and promoting the region as a tourist destination and a place to live, work and play. But the Chamber also provides business networking opportunities for members, marketing of member businesses through a very active website, email and social media, and providing marketing and event support to the downtown partnerships. The Chamber focuses on many of the business sectors that ACEDC does not, including lodging, dining, retail, personal and business services, non-profits, and organizations that provide local activities and entertainment.

Both ACEDC and the Chamber offer educational seminars, workshops, and roundtables for businesses that provide business fundamentals, business growth strategies, organizational skills, and professional development opportunities. We also both advocate on behalf of businesses at the town level, in Montpelier and Washington and provide information to members on issues impacting their businesses. We also both offer marketing, networking, and referral opportunities. ACEDC and the Chamber are taking steps to work more collaboratively and cooperatively in these areas of common interest to be more effective and efficient for the region.

So, think of ACEDC as your community and economic development partner and call us for support at all stages of business growth, especially for value-add businesses and businesses that need funding or financing. Think of the Chamber for your connection to other area businesses and to those considering the region for a place to live, work or play, especially for those in the hospitality and retail sectors. Stay plugged in to both for opportunities to learn and succeed. We may have different areas of expertise and focus, and offer different services and benefits, but both organizations are here for you and are two of the reasons that Great Starts Here.