'Grow Dalton' group seeks public input to help transition image from 'mill town'

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DALTON — Public participation is sought for a coordinated effort to promote the town and its offerings in the fashion of similar self-marketing attempts by groups Lenox and Adams.

A new group, called Grow Dalton, consists of town business and civic leaders, and will hold its first meeting from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Stationery Factory on Flansburg Avenue on March 16. Members of the public are encouraged to attend.

John Kelly, owner of Kelly's Package Store, and other town business owners initiated the group, putting heads together in response to recent facility closures by Crane & Co. — the town's chief business.

"Some of us looked at it as a positive opportunity to change the course of the town," Kelly said. "We want to redefine how people in the Berkshires and the larger region look at the town."

Others involved included Ron Sanders, president of RBD Electronics; Steve Sears, owner of the Stationery Factory; attorney Holly Rogers; Select Board Chairman and former town Police Chief John Bartels Jr.; acupuncturist Marion Bergan; and Peter Kirchner of Northeast Fabricators & Mechanical Services.

Part of the job, Kelly said, will consist of launching a new town website and bolstering its social media presence.

Another idea is to work to grow and enhance already successful town events like the annual Kelly's Package Store Beer Fest at the American Legion, which in 2015 drew more than 1,000, and the town's holiday celebrations.

Finding ways to attract new businesses — and ways to allow existing businesses to collaborate on common goals and new projects — and making the town attractive to potential residents will also prove key, Kelly said.

"We're centrally located between Westfield and Northampton — we think we're a hub," Kelly said.

The rest, according to Rogers, should remain vague pending public input.

"We're transitioning Dalton from a mill town to — question mark," Rogers said. "We don't want to impose our ideas on the community, rather provide a forum for people to get together and share ideas and hopes. We want to leave things open for the public to shape for themselves."

Rogers and Kelly said the group could become involved in fundraising activities to further its aims.

"I have a ton of wacky ideas that I'd love to pursue to get the idea of Dalton into people's heads," Kelly said.

Kelly mentioned rebooting old events like the Penny Carnival at Dalton CRA, a game event for kids, and Dalton Follies, a talent show of sorts featuring local performers at Wahconah Regional High School.

Said Rogers, "We're hoping to be like a chamber of commerce but with a broader scope."

In Lenox, town officials have sought to use the chamber of commerce to "strengthen the Lenox brand," while the Pro Adams group in Northern Berkshire County has taken a hand in organizing major Adams events like Thunderfest and the Thunderbolt Ski Race.

Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.

On the web ...

For more information, find Grow Dalton on Facebook.


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