By the end of next month, the new Letchworth Villages Gateway Program Director, Nicole Manapol, will begin working to join the economy of villages in both Livingston and Wyoming counties.
The initiative began with the objective of maximizing the recent influx in tourism to Letchworth State Park. Manapol was chosen from a pool of 16 applicants by Geneseo Tourism Committee, Mount Morris’ Partners for Progress and the Perry Main Street Association as well as Mayor of Perry Rick Howser and Downtown Coordinator for the Livingston County Office of Development Louise Wadsworth.
Wadsworth said the need for the position has always been evident in the community.
“We’ve always talked about having a Main Street Manager for our own communities, but we could never afford it,” she said.
Over the past year, the United States Agricultural Department awarded the communities a grant of $59,000 to develop and implement a plan to join the businesses of the communities.
“When we put all three communities together, then we have a really good group of probably over 150 businesses,” Wadsworth said. “We know that a lot of people are coming to the park and we want to capitalize on those people.”
Such an initiative has never been carried out in New York State before, according to Wadsworth.
“We’re looking at the communities that exist in Livingston and Wyoming counties that have industrial pasts and have lost jobs in the region,” Manapol said in a phone interview. “The most exciting piece is this sense of reinvention and seeing what the future holds for the region.”
The position is meant to last one year, but both Manapol and Wadsworth said they are confident it will be extended for two years.
The project is also looking at implementing internship opportunities for Geneseo students. There is some funding set aside for interns, so as they do their initial analysis of what is needed, they will be working closely with the school in order to get students involved with the project, according to Manapol.
Manapol explained that she has worked to foster communities internationally in a variety of ways.
“My background and my career over the past 15 years now has focused on international development, so a lot of what I’ve done over the years is to help build capacity at a community level, whether that be livelihood development, small business development, education and training programs,” Manapol said. “I call myself a social impact consultant.”
Through this work, Manapol said that she feels that she is prepared for this new position.
Most of the work that she has done has been looking at specific problems that a community is trying to solve and developing a program that builds capacity, according to Manapol.
Wadsworth said that Manapol possesses valuable skills essential for completing the project’s goals.
“We chose Manapol for the collaboration skills she’s had. I felt like she had the skills to take something that didn’t exist and put it together,” Wadsworth said. “She’s also worked in the university environment and had a lot of technological skills we may not have had.”