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Tom Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care; Meg Campbell, co-founder of the Citizens for a Greater Bennington; and Jim Brown, president of The Bank of Bennington post in downtown Bennington.

Biz Briefs: Citizens for a Greater Bennington to Support the Putnam Block Project

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Around the block: The Citizens for a Greater Bennington, in partnership with Preservation Trust of Vermont and the Vermont Natural Resources Council, are giving a $100,000 grant to support the Putnam Block Redevelopment Project. The CFGB Grant will be made through the Southwestern Vermont Hospital Foundation and will leverage an additional $100,000 contribution from the Bank of Bennington.

The Putnam Block Project is a vibrant, mixed-use downtown space with offices, in-town living, restaurants and retail.  The Putnam Block Redevelopment is a community-led development. The civic leaders of Bennington together with the town, state and key tenants are providing the investments and commitments to ensure this project will be successful.

These CFGB funds are the direct result of a Settlement Agreement reached with the developer, BLS Bennington LC, in the permitting process for the expansion of the Bennington Walmart. According to the settlement, BLS Bennington LC will provide a total of $200,000 for programs and projects to support the economic vitality of downtown Bennington and $20,000 for programs and projects to maintain, enhance or restore streams and rivers within the Walloomsac River Watershed. This grant represents half of the total funds awarded for downtown economic vitality.


The joy of giving: Pungl, a brand-new marketplace that aims to transform online fundraising and charitable giving, invites area nonprofit managers, school administrators, town board members and others who are interested or involved in charitable fundraising to a launch event on October 5 from noon to 7 p.m. at Hotel on North in Pittsfield, Mass. One-on-one sessions will be held from noon to 5 p.m., with a presentation and Q&A to follow from 5 to 7 p.m. The event, sponsored by the Nonprofit Center of the Berkshires, will not only introduce Pungl's concept to nonprofits, but will give them an up-close look at how they can use Pungl to reach beyond a local donor base to anyone in the country who shares similar values, and raise much-needed funds — plus spread the joy of giving.

Recent studies have found that many Americans, including millennials and young professionals, are no longer satisfied with material objects as gifts; instead, they want to leave their mark. Pungl connects donors with the charitable work that means the most to them, whether in their backyard or halfway across the world. They can use the Pungl marketplace to search for a variety of named giving opportunities, from arts and culture programming to projects that support services in a town or community, or causes that have global impact, like animal welfare and refugee aid. Donors purchase the gift for themselves, or to celebrate a friend or family member’s birthday, anniversary, personal accomplishment, or memory. The gift is named in honor of the donor or gift recipient, allowing them to not only help a worthy cause, but also leave a lasting legacy.

Pungl is the result of a brainstorm by 15-year-old Zachary Goffin, a native of Great Barrington and an avid athlete and eBay shopper. Goffin attended the birthday party of a friend, who requested that partygoers not bring gifts. Shortly after, at a sporting event, he spied some bricks outside the stadium with donors' names engraved on them, and had a lightbulb moment. The concept was then refined and transformed into a new online-giving marketplace by Housatonic-based creative director Abby Tovell, who runs the company.

Cultivating good will: Goodwill of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont announces will a hold a grand reopening celebration of its recently renovated store in Bennington, Vt., located at 215 North St. (Route 7), on Saturday, Sept. 30, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held at the store at 11 a.m. The public is invited to attend the event, which will feature remarks by store manager Karen Harrington, who is celebrating her first anniversary with Goodwill, and assistant manager Lena Stearns. State Rep. Mary A. Morrissey (R-Bennington) is scheduled to attend the event.

 Apple cider and cookies will be served, along with salted caramel apple juice and bottled water donated by Stop & Shop in North Adams. Festivities will include face painting and live music by Ben Mackin, store specials, and a sidewalk sale of items priced at 99 cents. A raffle will be held hourly from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Door prizes include gift baskets, merchandise, and gift certificates from Bennington Pizza House, Belizimo and The Clip Shop hair salons, and J&J Auto Polishing.

Goodwill's newly renovated operation in Bennington offers customers a pleasant shopping experience with wide aisles, new fixtures, fitting rooms, product displays and signage, and an excellent selection of high-quality new and gently used merchandise that will be restocked hourly, said David Twiggs, CEO of Goodwill of the Berkshires and Southern Vermont. Shoppers will find seasonal clothing for children, teens and adults, shoes, jewelry, furniture, books, and household and media items, he added. The nonprofit organization operates a total of five other stores in western Massachusetts and southern Vermont.

The site also has a donation center where people are encouraged to drop off items for resale, including donations of gently used and new clothing, housewares, furniture, small electronics, and computer equipment and peripherals. Donors can receive a tax-deductible receipt for their donations. For a list of donation locations, hours, and items to donate go to the website.

Living it up: Airbnb found that one of Massachusetts most-popular summer and cultural events - the Tanglewood Music Festival - helped thousands of residents gain additional income via Airbnb to help support their families. By sharing extra space in their homes with Tanglewood performers and patrons, middle class families earned nearly $2 million towards paying their mortgage and other monthly bills. "The Tanglewood Festival has been a tremendous tourism draw and economic boost for The Berkshires for nearly eight decades and Airbnb is proud to a part of this tradition by allowing more residents and local families share in the revenue it creates," said Will Burns, public policy director for Airbnb in Massachusetts.

Taking place each summer, from late June to early September, Tanglewood is hailed for bringing thousands of visitors to the region for concerts featuring orchestra and chamber music, and performances by contemporary and jazz artists.  The new report highlights how residents and Airbnb hosts in The Berkshires -- specifically in the towns of Lenox, Stockbridge, Alford, Great Barrington, Lee, Otis, Pittsfield, Richmond, Sheffield, Tyringham, Washington, West Stockbridge -- benefit from Tanglewood Music Festival, use their home sharing income to make ends meet, and open their communities to diverse travelers.

Survey says ...: Berkshire Money Management has just released the results from the most recent Berkshire Business Confidence Index (BCI) surveys. The surveys, which were sent to more than 5,000 businesses countywide, contained questions about how businesses are faring in the current national market, and also addressed more local issues that have been on the minds of business and organization leaders. The survey yielded a general positive skew, with a reading of 55.6 which indicates a slight increase in optimism from the last survey’s 53.4.

Berkshire Money Management's CEO and Chief Investment Officer Allen Harris said that there are some unique pain points that Berkshire businesses are definitely feeling. "Businesses are seeing the challenge of matching sales growth to increasing operational costs," Harris said. "Revenue growth isn't comfortably outpacing the rising costs, especially increasing energy expenses, commercial property taxes, and employee health insurance, to name a few of the big ones."

Area businesses also expressed some trepidation about the future, wondering what exactly their respective industries will look like in the coming decade. Nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of BCI respondents indicated strongly that they expect their business to look moderately (29 percent) to substantially (45 percent) different in the next 10 years. To see the complete results of the most recent Berkshire BCI surveys, visit the website.


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