BENNINGTON -- Part of a grant awarded to help southern Vermont communities recover from the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene three years ago will be used to fund a marketing campaign aimed at getting people to come to the region.

William Colvin, director of the Bennington County Regional Commission's sustainable community development program, told a group of commission members Thursday that the Southern Vermont Sustainable Marketing Project will officially be unveiled in April.

The marketing project is one of the initiatives funded by a $472,000 grant awarded to the Bennington County Regional Commission and the Windham County Regional Commission last year. The grant put flood recovery officers in both areas to assist local businesses and it paid for a series of six workshops aimed at downtown and village revitalization.

"The third component of the project was this Southern Vermont Sustainable Marketing Project, which is intended to develop an umbrella brand for all of southern Vermont for marketing purposes," said Colvin. "What's unique about this is it brought together the four chambers of commerce in the two counties, Bennington, Manchester, Mount Snow, and Brattleboro, to do some common thinking and planning around this project."

The marketing plan will be launched at the Vermont Travel Industry Conference, held at the Equinox Hotel in Manchester on April 3.


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Executives from the Economic Development Administration, which awarded the grant, will be attending, said Colvin as they view what is being done in southern Vermont as a "best practice" for regional marketing efforts.

"The objective was to create a southern Vermont tourism initiative and sustainable marketing initiative that both drives visitation to the area and promotes a permanent workforce relocation to the area," said Colvin.

The marketing campaign will work to draw tourists to the area as well as people who want to live and set up a business here.

"We're targeting $150,000 first year campaign, and $350,000 for year two and three, so there'll be a significant fundraising component of that," he said.

The advertisements will focus on the Hartford and Springfield, Mass., areas. One slogan being pitched is, "Become a Vermonter for a weekend, become a Vermont for life."

"One hundred and fifty thousand dollars isn't going to buy you much in the New York metro market, so Hartford and Springfield are our key market demographic areas," said Colvin. "We hope in the second year, as we get additional funding, to move further south more along the shoreline."

Through his presentation he said the Boston metro area was not being targeted by the campaign, prompting questions and skepticism from BCRC delegates.

"If you look at visitor demographics, the Boston market is not a big market for any of our tourism, he replied. "People shoot straight up I-93 to the White Mountains."

Colvin said the data collected from the ski areas, Stratton and Mount Snow, and some from Killington suggest few people from the Boston area consider southern Vermont a tourism stop. The same holds true for other tourism industries.

When asked if the campaign would also work to keep young people from Vermont from leaving, Colvin said it focuses on getting people who have moved away to think about coming back.

"There's a component of young people, they're going to want to move away, they're going to want to experience the city, and what we're is hoping is somewhere that 25- to 44-year-old range, when they're ready to raise kids they think about coming back to this region," he said.

While the Southern Vermont Sustainable Marketing Project was the main point of his presentation, Colvin also touched on the Bennington Strategic Economic Development Plan which was completed in May. It will be updated and its progress will be reported to the Select Board in the coming months. He also talked about a village revitalization plan created for Peru which has been quite successful.