First forum called a success

Business, town try to bring each other into focus

More than 30 business owners, town officials and members of the public gathered early on Friday, May 14, at Bethlehem Town Hall with coffee in hand for what organizers hope will be the first of many Focus on Business Forums.

A joint venture between the town and Chamber of Commerce, the public meetings were envisioned to serve as a means to foster communication between businesses and town government"two elements of the town that are unlikely to survive without each other.

Chamber President Marty DeLaney said the meeting was a success, and a good starting point for an ongoing dialogue with members of the Town Board, all of whom were in attendance.

"They were listening and interested in what everybody had to say," she said. "The Chamber board isn't going to let it go... They obviously want to hear from us."

Supervisor Sam Messina expressed similar thoughts following the roughly 90-minute meeting. It's now up to participants to follow through on what was discussed, he said.

"We had to have this dialogue start between the Chamber and Town Board," he said.

The meeting featured several presentations before a question and comment period. Town Director of Economic Development and Planning Michael Morelli brought attendees up to date on the town's Delaware Avenue Hamlet Enhancement Study, which is roughly slated for a fall completion.

The main challenge to the group tasked with creating the report has been balancing the artery's need to effectively move traffic with the desire to create a walkable, pedestrian-friendly "main street" atmosphere.

Having concrete guidelines in place for how businesses should look and be positioned is better than a nebulous idea, Morelli said.

"What they hate to do is come in and not have direction," he said.

Also presenting was Tom Barone of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. He briefly outlined some of the grant opportunities available to small businesses.

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