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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 14, 2011

Helderberg Hilltowns Association launches website

By Zach Simeone

HILLTOWNS — The grassroots Helderberg Hilltowns Association organization, in its mission to boost the local economy, has launched a website with two main objectives: creating a comprehensive directory of local products and businesses, and maintaining a shared community calendar for the Hilltowns.

“We’ve tried to look at the Hilltowns as an entity instead of four subgroups, and think about ways to benefit all of them,” said Zenie Gladieux, a Hilltowner who has been a member of the group since it was founded in late 2009. “We’ve used the term ‘buy local’ to encourage people to buy from each other in the Hilltowns instead of running into Albany,” she said.

The Helderberg Hilltown Association began to evolve in late 2009 as Harold Miller, a Berne native who now lives in Mexico, built a network of individuals interested in assembling an association of Hilltown farmers and business owners who would act as a virtual chamber of commerce for the Helderbergs, to promote low-impact, agricultural, recreational, and heritage tourism for an economic boost.

The group, which held its first meeting just one year ago, will be meeting next at the Hiawatha Grange in Westerlo at 7 p.m. on April 18 to continue its planning, and provide further information on the website.

The association will promote events like the Kiwanis Club’s Helderberg Maple Festival, taking place this Sunday, April 17 (see related story).

On site

The association’s website, www.Hilltowns.org, will be connected with Miller’s website, www.AlbanyHilltowns.com, which began as a genealogy project; Miller will carry on in this capacity, Gladieux said.

“What we’re trying to do is develop an index,” Gladieux explained. “If you need your oil changed in your car, where can you go in the Hilltowns to get it? If you want raspberries, who has them, and where? So, you can go do a search, and say, ‘Who can give me apples?’ And it’ll tell you.”

Giving an example of planning among Hilltown businesses, Gladieux went on, “Let’s say the town of Berne is having a town-wide garage sale. It might be a good time for the other organizations in Berne to have a luncheon or a dinner.”

But in order for the website to function as an effective tool, the association will need help from local businesses, she went on.

“We need to get more of the Hilltown businesses to tell us about themselves so we can get their information up there,” said Gladieux. “If we don’t get this information from businesses and services in the Hilltowns, people aren’t going to find them.”

This tool, she hopes, will make people who are unfamiliar with the Hilltowns aware of what the area has to offer, while gradually bringing the four Hilltowns together as one unified body.

“In the Hilltowns, there’re probably over 600 businesses, and that’s probably a conservative number,” Gladieux concluded. “I think, once they find out about the site, there will be a lot of activity on it.”

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