AMHERST – From concept to reality. The downtown business advisory committee – first proposed by town council at a meeting of business owners – chose its members at a town hall meeting late last week.
“I’m very pleased with the turnout,” said Michele LeBlanc, who owns McCully Market with her husband.
The committee will represent the downtown business community to council. The seven business reps are LeBlanc, Kevin Nelson, Sharon LeBlanc, Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin, Mark Casey, Beth Clinton and Diane Crawshaw. Two councilors, still to be selected, will also sit on the committee, as well as the mayor.
“I’m glad that they’ve got the desire to move forward,” said David Mosley, president of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce.
Most of the meeting was spent in a brainstorming session – first developing a list of the town core’s strengths, then suggesting potential actions to focus on moving forward. Strengths the group came up with ranged from small town feel and old buildings, to the recent beautification project and ample parking.
Suggestions for improvements to customer traffic ranged from likely to very unlikely. Marketing downtown and increased co-operation among municipalities are definite possibilities. Building a man-made white sand beach just outside of town on a small, artificial body of water, as one creative person suggested, probably won’t happen.
Mosley hopes the group makes the right, important decisions up front, rather than wasting time following ideas that lead nowhere. One of the issues he raised was the impression LaPlanche Street makes to tourists entering Amherst from the border’s visitor centre – decisively negative, from his viewpoint.
The chamber president would like the town to focus on the next exit from the Trans-Canada, with tourists entering town from West Victoria Street. He feels Amherst and the Cumberland Energy Association should work with the Wandlyn Inn to develop a conference centre and an interpretive centre showcasing local green energy projects.
You can’t just declare a place a destination – you have to put something there for people to see, he said.
“Our border…is not doing a lot for us,” said Mosley.
Mayor Robert Small said a plan is already in place to upgrade the intersection of LaPlanche Street and Lawrence Street. And he felt the brainstorming session resulted in a number of frequent themes.
“Marketing for sure was up there,” said Small.
Committee member Michelle LeBlanc thought the list of strengths the meeting developed was a great start. Now she wants to see strategies developed and timelines set out.