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Westport talks revitalization plans

Margaret Irwin, Principal with River Street Planning and Development does a presentation for the Westport community for the revitalization plan.

Margaret Irwin, Principal with River Street Planning and Development does a presentation for the Westport community for the revitalization plan. Photo by Katherine Clark.

— Connell said of everything identified there wasn’t one thing that had not been discussed among the local council members prior to the evaluation.

“Now the challenge is to take all the information and move forward,” Connell said. “The great thing about this is you get people talking that we otherwise might not have known they were here.”

Irwin identified some of the strengths in Westport as the Champlain waterfront, the strong school district and easy access to visitors with the train station.

Some weaknesses they identified are the low number of employers, with the number one employer for Westport, as in many rural communities, being public administration.

Irwin said there are a surprisingly low amount of accommodations and food service businesses to support tourism.

“We’re developing a marketing plan that showcases why Westport is desirable,” Irwin said.

Irwin said the project’s focus on the arts is not just about painting or photography but a whole genre of potential people coming into the community who are self-starters, small business owners and creative people who will appreciate a close-knit, functioning community.

“The focus of the revitalization was arts based because that was the grant we applied for,” Connell said.

One of the lacking components of the plan was how to bring in an industry of job growth. Irwin said the town’s high speed internet capability made it an attractive location for potential telecommuters.

In August 2013, RSPD was hired through a Local Waterfront Revitalization grant from the Department of State Division of Environmental Protection Fund. The grant is meant to help the town get assistance in preparing an Economic Revitalization Strategy to advance priority projects in the community and hamlet. The town was approved in 2011 for funding from the Department of State. It was thanks to previous work by numerous volunteer committees and the town council over the past several years to explore ways of strengthening Westport’s economic viability and its regional visibility.

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