Gaucher launches push to grow Middlebury business
MIDDLEBURY — Jamie Gaucher has only been Middlebury’s first-ever business development director for about 10 days, but he has already mapped out what he wants to accomplish during his next 90.
Gaucher’s plan is to lay a strong foundation for job growth in Middlebury that will include setting up new software to track corporate prospects, networking with Middlebury College alumni as well as state and local economic development officials, and meeting with local business leaders to get feedback on how to fill voids in the local job market.
And if Gaucher has his way, these efforts will culminate in one or two strong prospects visiting Middlebury within the next three months to discuss the potential of setting up a new business or industry in town. A town committee that was charged with defining and overseeing Gaucher’s position had set a goal of 12 months to sign up a prospect or prospects.
“As I looked at (the schedule), I thought, ‘I think I can be more aggressive,’” Gaucher said. “I hope to exceed their expectations.”
Gaucher, 46, recently relocated to Middlebury from West Virginia. There, he served as deputy chief of the West Virginia Small Business Development Center. In his role with the West Virginia SBDC, he had administrative, strategic planning, budget and other responsibilities. Prior to his current job, he was responsible for managing West Virginia’s Small Business Innovative Research program, supervising a statewide “micro-loan” fund for new ventures. And before that, he was responsible for innovation-based economic development and technology-based economic development for the entire state of West Virginia.
Middlebury, Gaucher believes, is well-positioned to attract business prospects because it has three things going for it that many other competing communities don’t have: Superior quality of life; a reputation for being home to good quality products (such as Cabot cheese, Woodchuck hard cider and Otter Creek Brewing beer); and being associated with a top liberal arts college that has an international reach and reputation.
“Middlebury College is very much invested in this (job creation mission), and there is so much leverage available with what they’ve got going on — and it’s completely untapped,” Gaucher said. “I believe 60 percent of the students here study abroad. That’s roughly 1,400 to 1,500 kids who are ambassadors that Middlebury College has everywhere across the world, and it’s a completely untapped network.”
Gaucher hopes to tap into that network so that at least some of those international alumni and students spread the word that Middlebury is a good place to do business.
“This intersection between ‘quality’ and ‘international’ really has upside and potential,” Gaucher said.
Specific elements of Gaucher’s “100-day plan” include:
• Meet with representatives of the more than 15 businesses that contributed toward the funding of the Middlebury Business Development Fund that subsidizes Gaucher’s job and related outreach efforts. That fund includes annual contributions of $72,000 each from the town and Middlebury College, along with $36,000 from the business community.
“I’m here to represent Middlebury around economic development issues, and from my perspective, being new in town, there’s no better way to learn than to sit down and have those conversations,” Gaucher said.
• Set up a “customer relationship management” system, including software that will help Gaucher track his interactions with business associates and prospects and record specific milestones in negotiations.
• Forge relationships with what Gaucher refers to as the “economic development ecosystem.” That ecosystem includes the Addison County Economic Development Corp., the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, the Better Middlebury Partnership and the various state agencies that help cultivate business prospects.
• Meet with representatives of Vermont Gas, Vermont Railway and Middlebury State Airport — all potential contributors to business growth in town.
• Network with Middlebury College officials who will assist Gaucher in connecting with alumni who might be interested in laying down some entrepreneurial roots in the hometown of their alma mater.
• Arrange a public session to hear residents’ ideas on job growth and solicit input around targeted industries or businesses.
• Develop marketing materials.
• Make presentations at two college alumni events.
• Draft a strategy of how the town will reach out to young entrepreneurs and professionals.
• Host visits with one or two prospects considering a venture in Middlebury.
Gaucher has been pleased with the cooperation he has received to date from Middlebury officials, residents and businesspeople. He is looking forward to his first 100 days and beyond.
“Everyone has been great,” Gaucher said. “It’s been absolutely fantastic.”
Reporter John Flowers is at email@example.com.