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First forum called a success

William Herbert, of BBL Development Group, gave the meeting an update on development in the Vista Technology Park, and faced some pointed questions in regard to when shovels will actually be in the ground there.

He said as the economy warms back up, the tenants will be willing to commit money to developing the site, possibly later this year.

"It's not out call, it's our tenants' call," he said.

While it's hoped large businesses will play an increasing role in town through Vista, most Chamber members consist of smaller operations with unique needs. Several business owners said while the town should work to attract more businesses, it should also ensure retail is diversified so services are not duplicated.

"If we keep bringing in retail businesses, the pie keeps getting smaller and smaller," said James Giaccone, the owner of My Place restaurant and bar.

And while there was general agreement more could be done to show Bethlehem is business friendly, it was less clear how that would be accomplished, especially as the town does not have the funds to offer economic incentives.

"We can have a vision and try and implement it, but there's a cost to everything," said Councilman Kyle Kotary.

DeLaney mentioned an ongoing project with Jimapco to transfer the Chamber's business directory into a map format, which would help interested developers understand where businesses might work.

Appearance notwithstanding, business owners who spoke said the town has been increasingly open to assisting businesses.

"We have a road map, we have the directions and we have a staff that's responsive," said realtor Jessica Richer. At the same time, there are only a few decent commercial centers in town for her business clients, she said.

"I have a hard time finding them locations. There isn't a lot here," said Richer.

Town and Chamber officials said they'd like to see another forum with focus on other areas of town. Quarterly meetings had previously been discussed.""

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