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Grant will help businesses plan Mohawk Trail centennial

To mark the centennial of the Mohawk Trail as one of the nation’s first scenic auto-touring roads, the Franklin County Community Development Corp. and Greater Shelburne Falls Area Business Association have won a $56,210 state grant to create a unified marketing strategy that they hope will extend beyond the anniversary celebration and the Route 2 corridor itself.

The grant, from the state Executive Office of Administration and Finance, will help the CDC build on its $289,000 post-Hurricane Irene federal “disaster relief” collaboration with Berkshire County to help boost the economy in the two-county region and build what Business Development Director Amy Shapiro says can be lasting relationships among businesses and nonprofit organizations.

“There’s a lot of synergy going east and west, and there’s an opportunity here to build stronger businesses by building collaborations,” Shapiro said. “We realized, if we had ‘Eat the Trail, raft the Trail, hear the Trail’ themes,” the groups — stretching from the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce in the west to the North Quabbin Chamber of Commerce in the east — could seize on the marketing of the centennial tourist season and be prepared for it.

The two groups’ grant application for the project — “Building Economic Resiliency: Celebrating 100 years of the Mohawk Trail” — noted that Charlemont’s outdoor recreation attractions alone draw 120,000 to 145,000 visitors to that town each year, and that Williamstown’s Clark Art Institute expects to attract 120,000 visitors this year with heavy promotion of its new addition, while the Shelburne Falls Visitors Information Center logs visitors from nearly all 50 states and 48 countries.

The grant will allow the CDC to provide support to small businesses and a dozen associations in Greenfield, Montague, Northfield and other places along or on the periphery of the Route 2 corridor so they can work together this year and on future collaborations.

It will also help the Shelburne Falls association and the Mohawk Trail Association collaborate on marketing materials, including centennial maps, brochures, web pages and connecting web marketing based at MTA’s MohawkTrail.com website. Also coordinated will be enhanced existing events, such as 1914-era costumes for the annual Shelburne Falls Bridge Dinner and special events like scarecrow workshops and displays culminating in October after the regular fall foliage season, says Mary Vilbon, executive director of the Shelburne Falls association.

“There are so many small business associations from one end of the Trail to the other,” Vilbon says. “This is going to be the first opportunity I’ll have to work with all those associations across the region.”

Her group has been talking for months about the centennial commemoration, but now the grant will help to take advantage of the event to do economic development trailblazing across the Northern Tier.

On the Web: www.shelburnefalls.com www.mohawktrail,com You can reach Richie Davis at rdavis@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, Ext. 269

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