by Andrew Martin
Business owners and citizens of Cambridge are continuing to work to improve the economic situation in their home area. On November 30 the Cambridge Artists and Entrepreneurs (CAE) hosted a public dialog called “Taking a SWOT at Business in Cambridge” that examined the state of the business community in the Cambridge area. The session was led by John Mandeville, the executive director of the Lamoille Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), and the point of the meeting was to identify the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats to the Cambridge business community and to thereby determine possible future policies and goals.
“Overall it was a great meeting,” commented CAE Administrative Director and Board of Directors member Mark Schilling, “We were very surprised and pleased by the turnout. A lot of newcomers came and participated, and a lot of new ideas were brought up which opened a dialogue on what business people in the community feel needs to be addressed.”
The November 30 meeting was attended by a large number of businesspersons and a great deal of discussion took place. Along with Mandeville other members of the LEDC and Lamoille County Planning Commission were also on hand. As a result of the meeting, a list of the different strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats was compiled. Despite a wide variety for each listing two major conclusions were taken from the meeting. The first was that better communication between Smugglers’ Notch Resort and the rest of the community is needed. The second was that better communication was also needed between the Cambridge Selectboard, the Boards of Trustees for the villages of Cambridge and Jeffersonville, and the community.
Extensive lists of the four SWOT categories were also compiled at the meeting. Among the strengths that were listed at the meeting was the location of Cambridge, the fact that it is a tourist destination, the natural beauty and opportunity for outdoor activity, strong community involvement and established community organizations, and good schools. Other strengths brought up were the presence of Smugglers’ Notch Resort, the Buy Local movement, the historic local villages, and internet availability. Related opportunities that were mentioned at the meeting included the current room in the area to grow and expand, the chance to bring Smugglers’ Notch to the table more, and the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail.
While a number of positive aspects to the local business environment were raised some weaknesses and threats were brought up as well. The lack of public transportation and need for more infrastructure were two major issues, as was the current lack of potential jobs for future generations, the lack of planning for business development, the cost of living, and the lack of a community center. Other threats included the risk of flooding in both villages and an occasional lack of energy for change at the local level.
The SWOT meeting and the topics discussed at it were only the first in the CAE’s plan to take other action and to enhance the area. The CAE will be hosting more meetings and initiatives in the future that will aim to address various ideas or areas that were brought up at the November 30 meeting. The group usually meets once a month and details about upcoming meetings can be found at the CAE community website at http://www.CambridgeVT.com. According to their site, the mission of the group is to make Cambridge and the surrounding area as “inspiring and attractive to locals as it is to visitors.” Anyone wishing to learn more about the organization and its goals can do so by visiting the above-listed site.