The town of Middleburg’s new director of business and economic development wants to build a brand for the community by developing programs that support small businesses.
You have a background in working with small business communities through your work in Middlebury, Vermont, and Charleston, West Virginia. What struggles have you seen with coming into a brand new position for a town?
I’ve only been here since July and I haven’t encountered any struggles. It is a real opportunity to start from scratch and build some infrastructure and programs that I think will benefit this community.
What plans do you have to grow the town while keeping with its small-town charm?
Large chain national stores don’t fit the culture of Middleburg. This community is built on locally owned, authentic small businesses and entrepreneurs. Part of my responsibility, part of my job, is to develop some programs and develop a structure around helping the existing business community do whatever they do better; sort of a playbook. This isn’t about having a big-box store or having a nationally recognized chain come to Middleburg. This is about finding businesses that are complimentary to the existing business community and that would be a good fit for a social and cultural perspective for Middleburg. And we want to build a brand for the community.
Middleburg is known for its Kennedy connection and hunt country image. Is that something you want to retain, break away from or broaden the mindset of what people think of Middleburg?
For me it is about augmenting, it’s not about moving away from or breaking down or shifting. This is an authentic place. Going forward, we’re certainly not going to step away from that history but we are going to look at additional food and beverage opportunities, additional specialty retail opportunities and the role the arts play in a community this size, and we’re focused on building an economy with a strong experiential component. We want visitors to Middleburg to want to come back to Middleburg.
You mention you want to build off of the hospitality and businesses that are existing. What is your philosophy of adding to those experiences versus having new experiences?
It’s both. We need to constantly be thinking of all of the events that are historically associated with Middleburg evolving and becoming better. And there is certainly room for additional events. As we build on Middleburg’s strengths, which are one-of-a-kind, specialty retail, food and beverage, strong artistic and education community, we’re always looking for opportunities new and different. I don’t know what that looks like just yet, but I’m trying to find out.