Editor's note: A version of this story appeared on www.Reformer.com last weekend.
BRATTLEBORO -- A professional marketing group is touring the area and meeting with tourism stakeholders this week as part of any effort to create an economic development brand in southern Vermont.
The Windham Regional Commission and Bennington County Regional Commission have contracted with Denver-based Atlas Advertising to create and market an economic development brand. The firm will also help the state's four southern counties collaborate on marketing to tourists and recruitment employees in the area.
Atlas Advertising was hired using funds from a $470,000 Economic Development Administration grant that was announced in December by the state's congressional delegation. The funding is intended to aid long-term recovery efforts in southern Vermont following Tropical Storm Irene.
The funding is part of a three-part project, according to Laura Sibilia, director of economic development for the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation.
"There are three district projects," Sibilia said. "First there's flood recovery efforts going on around the counties; The the various downtown and village revitalizations going on; The third is this project, which is intended to do two things -- recruit tourists as well as help employers recruit highly specialized employees."
William Colvin, director of sustainable community development for BCRC, said a team from the firm will be visiting Windham and Bennington Counties on June 18 and 19.
Sibilia referred to Tuesday's meeting as a "focus group event," and added that these were important meetings as it marks Atlas' first trip to the area.
"This project will develop a brand for southern Vermont -- sort of a Geo-Brand," Sibilia said. "And it will develop a mechanism for tourism entities and employers to collaborate in a way they aren't doing now, or expand things that may already be in place."
Both Sibilia and Colvin said this first tour of the area will focus on tourism and that area's stakeholders.
The Atlas team will then return in July, according to Colvin, to meet with business professionals about their recruitment challenges.
The marketing efforts will include traditional advertising methods to attract visitors and business to the area. "I'm guessing some of those will be Web-based and some of those will be more traditional advertising spots," Colvin said.
"We're really excited. We're not exactly sure what it's going to look like at the end, but this is definitely a needed project," Sibilia said. "We're really hoping to tie a lot of things together."
Atlas has worked with more than 80 communities in six countries on similar marketing strategies and brings "incredible expertise in working with economic development," according to Colvin.
Reformer staff contributed to this report.