An economic development organization in Wilmington is offering $20,000 to the entrepreneur who comes up with the best business plan and is able to open up a new store in the downtown area.
After Tropical Storm Irene, Wilmington became the poster child for working its way back from the disastrous flood of 2011.
And Meg Staloff, program coordinator for Wilmington Works, said the town wants to continue moving ahead.
“We had a huge comeback, and we were really able to kind of bring the town back,” said Staloff. “But, we have some persistent vacancies, and then some older business owners who might be retiring ... So for one reason or another, we have quite a few available buildings in town.”
Staloff said Wilmington Works is asking prospective entrepreneurs to come up with some ideas for a year-round downtown business.
A panel will listen to the presentations, and then help the top contenders refine their plans.
Wilmington Works will collect business ideas until July 16. They’ll contact the semi-finalists on Aug. 1 and then make a final decision in October.
Paul Pabst is a second-home-owner in Wilmington, and he won a chunk of money on the television game show Sports Jeopardy!
Pabst decided to donate that money to the town to spur some development, and his prize earnings make up most of the $20,000 that the winner will receive.
“I live in Fairfield, Connecticut, and I know nobody. I visit Wilmington all the time as a second-home owner, and I know everybody here," Pabst said. "It’s a very welcoming community. You can walk into a restaurant and you’ll know three people before you sit down, and it makes it a place that I want to come to a lot.”
Pabst hopes the prize money helps cast a wide net for ideas, and he said he hopes the winning business plan adds to the year-round economy in the Deerfield Valley.
“I think there’s a business that can serve both the local community and the tourism/ski community, and I think that’s what we’re looking for,” Pabst said. “We’re not looking for just another restaurant that gets used in winter when all the people are up here for skiing.
"I like the idea — and whoever has the best idea wins — is some type of business that appeals year-round, 12 months a year, to the people who visit here and the people who live here.”