WILMINGTON -- Marketing southern Vermont is not an easy task.
With all the localized brands and marketing campaigns out there, executives from the regional chambers of commerce have assisted in conducting research to ultimately produce something that everyone can use to bring more people to the region.
"I have been so jazzed by being part of this project," said Brattleboro Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jerry Goldberg.
On Nov. 14, Atlas Advertising CEO Ben Wright held a meeting at the Wilmington Town Offices, where he discussed how to cultivate and grow a message based around promoting the southern part of the state.
Atlas Advertising had been contracted in March to assist with developing a brand and marketing mechanism through a $100,000 grant. The effort is known as the Southern Vermont Sustainable Marketing Project.
According to a press release, the project "has been named as a high priority project in economic mitigation plans for the announced closure of Vermont Yankee and as a vital project in the Southeastern Vermont CEDS, or Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy, to be released on Dec. 5."
Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joanne Erenhouse advocated for the various regional chambers and local towns working together.
"It's not a competition," she said. "It's an enhancement. Together, we're stronger and we have more sources to offer to our people."
After introductions, Wright told attendees that a brand is a collection of impressions that are communicated to potential customers.
The research that had been conducted included surveying visitors, business leaders and people who live in the various communities.
"Our goal is to help articulate this community in a way that is relevant, true and different from other places," said Wright.
As a result of the research, it was decided that it would be one brand instead of two separate brands for southeast and southwest.
"I think you have to be careful that you don't do anything that waters down the individuality of the different communities," one attendee said. "(You can) get it so watered down that it works for everybody but it doesn't do the job it is meant to do."
Wright spoke of the umbrella they hoped to create with the new brand. That plan includes making it compatible with existing brands.
Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation Economic Development Director Laura Sibilia said the grant "was written to find a better mechanism for employers and tourism entities to collaborate together to have better success and effectiveness."
"The point of Vermont is the individuality," she added. "So squashing all the brands within it would be defeating what we're doing."
Goldberg spoke of a recent meeting where it had been realized that attempting to attract large businesses to the state would not be a worthwhile pursuit. But inviting small businesses to come and grow would be.
"We want to encourage what makes Vermont an attractive place," he said.
The top advantages mentioned by Wright included the quality of life, ability to access government in a way that is not possible in larger states, coming tax credits to Wilmington and Dover offering marketing assistance, and the proximity to New York City and Boston. When compared to the northern part of the state, Wright said that southern Vermont has accessibility.
He noted that it is important to make the marketing campaign about bringing people, not companies. It also should promote the region's fierce independence and independent identities.
"But we cannot market our small towns against bigger competitors," stated a slide during the discussion.
As the plan gets closer to fruition, Wright said its purpose is to bring vitality, money and longevity to the region.
Another meeting regarding these efforts will be scheduled and announced in the future.
Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.