The Winthrop Chamber of Commerce has made facilitating a discussion about the importance of Westernization, and its role in keeping the local economy healthy, as one of its key initiatives for 2018, chamber leadership said last week at the organization’s monthly meeting.
Chamber president Mark Ryan said the organization will also address how to improve support for the town’s restaurants, and will gather downtown business owners to address common challenges and needs.
Julie Muyllaert, chamber vice president, said that support for westernization seems to wax and wane, adding that “we hope we can come back to some common vision and embrace our Western town.” She said the current discussion over a proposal to amend the Westernization ordinance “exemplifies the challenge” of supporting to town’s commitment.
Bart Bradshaw, who owns businesses in both the downtown core and on Highway 20, said he was concerned that Westernization may be threatened by incremental changes. As to the proposed ordinance change to allow solar panels in the town’s W-3 zone, Bradshaw said “we should be behind what it [the Westernization code] says.”
If Westernization is allowed to erode, Bradshaw said, “pretty soon it will be glittery with a little Westernization thrown in.”
Muyllaert said the intent of the chamber’s initiative is “connecting where we’re at and getting the business community on the same page.”
Bradshaw asked if there was a specific reason for the chamber’s focus on Westernization.
“We don’t want it to erode,” Muyllaert responded. “We want to know how we can support it going forward … we want everyone supportive and committed.”
“Our Westernized town was a visionary thing,” she added. “We need to hold onto it now and into the future. If we’re not intentional about it, it will erode.”
As to the restaurant initiative, Ryan said that a common observation — or complaint — is that there are not enough eateries, or at least not enough open at convenient times for typical visitors.
“We want to get feedback from restaurant owners and see how we can help them,” Ryan said.