BURLINGTON - The town’s Economic Development Director, Melisa Tintocalis, presented the Select Board with a year-in-review regarding the state of the economy in Burlington.
The thorough presentation outlined key economic development initiatives undertaken by the town’s Economic Development Office since 2020. The objectives are to share the work being done, how it connects to the community’s goals, and the status or outcome of these initiatives, today.
Website and Social Media
Since 2020, the town created a new website called BringMeToBurlington.com and has a social media presence on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. The website and social media accounts are tied to the Economic Development Office, allowing interested business entities to explore the town’s economic engine and availability from the click of a button. Tintocalis acknowledged the current iteration of the website is considered a rudimentary stage, but confirmed most organic searches have related to those looking for commercial office space in town.
A presentation to the Select Board by Sperling Interactive, regarding the finalized website and analytics, is planned for December 2021.
Much of the presentation and origin of the economic initiatives being undertaken are derived from the town’s Comprehensive Master Plan. This correlates to the Town Center and the hope that the sometimes forgotten downtown commercial sector of Burlington can be rejuvenated.
“We want to continue to promote town-oriented business that provide services, employment and opportunities,” explained Tintocalis. “It will be key to provide measures to promote businesses along Cambridge Street, support promotion events and participation of businesses in civic programs.
Throughout the pandemic, the Economic Development Office has earned grants, including the Massachusetts Downtown Initiative Grant in 2021 and a $50,000 earmark to support the Town Center development initiative. A proposed pocket park is hoped to convert approximately four parking spaces adjacent to Sweet Ginger into an area for people to gather and offer a venue for programming and civic engagement.
Micro-Business Grant Program
In response to COVID’s impacts on small businesses, the state provided funding for micro-businesses (those with five employees or fewer). The Economic Development Office participated in a regional effort with 23 other communities to secure $100,000 in funding for Burlington’s micro-businesses. In total, nine grants have been issued for a total of $87,500. The remaining $17,000 was pooled with other communities to optimize the funding for micro-businesses still in need. The next round of applications for this grant are due Dec. 1, and qualifying Burlington micro-businesses can apply through the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
COVID Business Task Force
Restaurants were directly impacted by COVID-19 in Burlington, like many communities throughout the world. In an effort to aid these eateries, the Economic Task Force met from April 2020 to June 2021 and helped process approximately 40 temporary permits for outdoor dining and/or exercising activities. Based on the Governor’s extension, these permits will be honored through April 2022.
It may become a permanent bylaw in Burlington.
“Based on the successful implementation of the Task Force and business feedback, the Economic Development Office has been asked how to make some of the COVID-era practices, in particular, the allowance of creative outdoor dining/seating options and other seasonal activities a regular part of Burlington without an extensive permitting process, but similar to the Task Force process,” Tintocalis declared. “The goal is to craft a proposal for Town Meeting to consider that would allow the town to approve seasonal requests related to seating or new programming that supports businesses in an easy manner.”
Tintocalis’ expects to bring this proposal to the January 2022 Town Meeting. The Economic Task Force is comprised of staff from Planning, Building, Health, Fire, Police, and Economic Development.
The Select Board is in unison hoping that an Economic Development Forum can take place during an entire Select Board meeting just for this subject. Town Administrator Paul Sagarino stated that can be arranged.
The board is beyond pleased with Tintocalis and the Economic Development Office for steering the town in the right direction.
“We are so lucky to have you,” Select Board Vice Chair Nicholas Priest said to Tintocalis. “You have been able to guide Burlington’s economy and help it evolve with these various initiatives through the last year-and-a-half of COVID-19. Thank you.”
Updates regarding a potential Economic Development forum will be revealed as the information is confirmed and disseminated from the Town Administration.