AMHERST – Amherst’s strategic priorities have received a vote of confidence from what could be a key partner.
Mayor Robert Small presented the town’s four-year plan to members of the Amherst and Area Chamber of Commerce last night with chamber members expressing their support for the direction council is saying.
“I’m very encouraged and supportive of the strategies and the priorities,” chamber member Michelle LeBlanc said following the presentation. “In particular I’m encouraged by the provisions included for festivals and events. I see it as a huge need. We’ve taken big steps and there’s a big opportunity for more events in downtown Amherst that will benefit the entire town and the county.”
The town approved its strategic plan last month and the mayor plans to meet with as many groups and organizations as he can to explain council’s priorities.
“This is our first year with the new council and the start of communicating our plan to the community,” the mayor said. “The chamber is front in centre when it comes to talking to the business community about what we plan and how they could participate.”
The mayor said he plans to meet with the Amherst Rotary Club and other groups in the next few months to talk about the town’s strategic priorities and gather feedback.
LeBlanc said she hopes the chamber is able to partner with the town and other organizations on events such as a second downtown street party and reviving the blueberry harvest festival that used to be held in the town before being joined with the Cumberland County Exhibition.
Elizabeth Dowe, who operates Sea Side Lane Marking, agrees the chamber and town could work together to encourage more events and more traffic into town.
“We have a great opportunity here to bring more people into Amherst and benefit the town and the county,” Dowe said. “I thought the presentation was excellent.”
Chamber members asked a number of questions about the plan including concerns about the former police station on the corner of LaPlanche and Victoria streets.
The mayor said the town is also concerned with the future of the building that it bought from a Halifax developer several years ago. He said the amount of money required to redevelop the building is going to require time and/or the involvement of private enterprise.
The town’s strategic plan includes 33 actions it hopes to complete over the next four years. Priorities for the first year include reviewing the town’s tax structure, development of a police facility, the regional marketing strategy that was recently completed by the Cumberland Regional Development Authority, the new Regional Enterprise Network that will replace CRDA, hiring a new police chief and creating a development plan for the West Highlands area.