WILMINGTON -- The minds behind the Hermitage Club’s operations are moving quickly to bring more visitors to their resort at Haystack and the Deerfield Valley.
"We bought the mountain and the next day, we were out selling memberships," said Hermitage Club Founder and President Jim Barnes. "We started to get great experience on how it works."
Each year until 2014, they hope to grow by 200 to 300 members. So far, it has been working.
The goal is to have 1,200 members by 2014.
On Aug. 15, Barnes held a meeting to discuss the master plan, current projects and marketing plans. His presentation included data and information showing how that would all make an economic impact on the valley.
In the presentation, it was stated that capital investments in the Haystack Mountain and Hermitage Club are forecasted to total $31 million. Property taxes from the company’s ventures are anticipated to bring in approximately $5.5 million annually to the towns in the valley.
Following more construction, the Hermitage Club is expecting to hire 100 additional employees for operations.
"This will likely occur in the 20-24 age group," said Barnes. "That’s one of the stated goals in SeVEDS (Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies.)"
As a member of the Dover and Wilmington, Bi-Town Committee, Barnes spoke of the shared interest of bringing additional visitors the area.
"One of our goals in the valley is to have a lot more traffic from Sunday to Thursday," he said, mentioning the corporate membership, which was "really launched in the last 30 days."
It offers year-round entertainment and various corporate events. Businesses in Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are currently being targeted for corporate memberships.
"We can rent out the mountain for the day," said Barnes. "They’ll fill up the (Hermitage) Inn and (other inns) in the valley."
Local corporate memberships are also being offered to inn keepers, real estate agencies and other businesses.
Construction on the new $20 million base lodge has begun. It is being designed with the ability to serve 1,500 members.
A two-story foundation wall can now be seen on the site, Barnes said. He spoke of the lodge and how it will function.
"There’s a lot going on here. During the day, we’ll have a really nice restaurant with high end service, where people can order food. Then at night, it turns into a single plated dining experience with a more family style," Barnes continued.
Downstairs, there will be a movie theater room, teen recreation center, arcade and a video edit room. The editing room will offer guests the opportunity to edit and post videos online that were taken during the day.
Also in the lower area of the lodge, there will be a hair salon, a spa with 14 treatment rooms, a workout facility and pilate and yoga studios. A nursery and ski development program are among the planned operations.
In other development plans, Barnes discussed Stag’s Leap, which will be a set of homes sold along the lower mountain.
"We decided to back down the level of development," he said, "and have a wide open feeling."
Homes in the style of New England barns and sugar houses are to replace previous plans for higher density real estate development. All the property will be ski-in and ski-out. These 14 homes will go under construction in September.
A new lift called Tage Lift is planned to be located by the gatehouse. It is currently being constructed in Utah.
New plans for the east tract, near the Deerfield Valley Airport, were unveiled during the meeting.
"We want to give people full access to the Valley Trail," said Barnes. "It’s an important connection."
He spoke of maintaining the access for snowmobile groups as well as an open space for wildlife habitat.
"We want to take down the size of development. There’s hundreds of lots from pre-Act 250 permitting that we want to combine and make into a four to one (ratio), so we’ll have more land and more space," Barnes added.
Starting in December, there will be weekly service flights from Teterboro, N.J. or Westchester, N.Y.
In regards to marketing plans, the Hermitage Club just hired Outthink, a marketing group that has assisted with projects at Stratton, Mount Tremblant, Mount Washington, and cruise lines. For media planning, buying and placement, Makiaris Media was hired, along with CGPR Public Relations for press relations and marketing.
The overall marketing budget for 2013/2014 is projected to cost $720,000. There are ads being purchased for television, print, direct mail and "a heavy spend on digital marketing," said Barnes.
A digital marketing specialist Dan Gullotti was also recently hired. A complete website revamp along with pay per click, search engine optimization and increased Twitter updates are part of the focus on digital.
"I can’t over emphasize this: the people are coming here. There are the 50 percent who haven’t come to the valley before," said Barnes. "They’re coming because they want to be a part of this."
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.