Newport Banks on Tourism Trends

NEWPORT CITY – Newport City is putting its money into tourism. Bicycle racks will soon adorn city streets, walking maps have been made, the Tasting Center is taking hold and the airport is on track for expansion.Bill Morison, chair of the Newport City Renaissance Corporation (NCRC) Economic Restructuring Committee, said during committee meeting yesterday that the committee switched gears from grant funding to community funding so the city can install 10 bicycle racks in June.Trish Sears, NCRC executive director, placed an order for the racks Wednesday.“That was based on a number of people and companies that stepped up and said they would be happy to pop for at least one bike rack,” Morison said. Some people put up as much as $300 and Steve Breault, co-owner of Newport Natural Foods, said he would assist with the balance, Morison said. Other business owners have also indicated their willingness to provide support.The bike racks are an example of a private-public partnership that makes things happen in Newport, Sears said. The city will eventually have 50 racks scattered around. For now, the racks will be in the Main Street area.Many tourists bicycle through the city. Breault said that, a few days ago, 20 bicyclists traveling from Montreal to Mt. Washington stopped in Newport.Newport is also a designated stop for members of the American Volkssport Association.Sears told the group the Northeast Kingdom Tasting Center is moving forward and there’s a buy-sell agreement for the former Downtown Discount House. The center will include a meat counter. It will also sell cheese and seafood and will have a bistro. Developers will soon start cleaning the windows and putting up signs. Drawings will portray the center. Sears said she might have more information for the July meeting.City Manager John Ward said the Newport City Council will consider a state planning grant for the tasting center. Northeastern Vermont Development Association would administer the grant, Ward said.Morison urged committee members to attend Monday’s meeting.The group spoke about Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Vermont's new ‘Walker’s Guide to Newport." According to committee member Kristen Southerden, from the Vermont Department of Health, the map has many errors. She said the Newport Elementary School and North Country Union High School are in the wrong locations. The map also shows public parking where none exists, Southerden said.The map does have some good points, Morison said.A 1,000-foot expansion of the airport continues to move forward, said Sears. Project officials have talked about getting more charter flights into the airport, which could serve as a hub for the Foreign Trade Zone. The trade zone is expected to be designated later this year. Individuals are interested in having warehouses and light manufacturing at the airport. The state is also paving the Airport Road this summer.