By Polly Lynn Mikula
“We’re here to celebrate Rutland County communities coming together toward a new effort to promote the entire region in the Killington Valley Initiative,” said Rutland Sen. Brian Collamore, Friday evening, July 14, at the estate wine tasting at the Peak Lodge in Killington, where the Killington Valley Initiative officially released its first promotional video. “I’d like to propose a toast to a countywide effort to put a spotlight on the quality of life we have here and an ongoing effort to recruit a world-class workforce for our first-class businesses. We are stronger together. Here’s to our continual collaboration and cooperation that will continue to grow our region.”
The Killington Valley initiative, a part of the Regional Marketing Initiative, includes Rutland County communities, towns and businesses. The initiative has developed into a three-part plan that focuses on quality of life, workforce and tourism, all which seek to boost the region’s population and economic viability.
The Killington Valley Initiative is aimed at recreation and tourism, increasing the county’s market share. The countywide effort hopes to position the Killington Valley in the Northeast as a regional mountain bike and adventure center.
The video released Friday follows a group of Millennial riders as they explore the Green Mountain Trails in Pittsfield, Killington Resort’s downhill bike trails, and Pine Hill Park’s cross-county trails in Rutland, while taking breaks between adventures to walk the streets of downtown Rutland and grab meals at area establishments.
“As the Regional Chamber and the intersection between the community and business, we are thrilled to be launching the first of many campaigns to bring people to our area,” said Mary Cohen, executive director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.
Thus far, $200,000 has been raised for the regional marketing initiative from local towns and businesses, with Rutland City providing $100,000 toward the effort. With those funds, a marketing firm, Mondo Mediaworks, has been retained to help drive the regional marketing campaign. After a few months of research, Mondo is now in the process of developing creative elements to be unveiled in the very near future. The initiative is expected to be a 10-year project supported by Rutland County communities.
Rutland City Mayor David Allaire said of the effort, “Never before in my time in public office have I seen a moment where there has been such genuine interest in working together towards common goals than right now. This regional marketing initiative is an example and it’s an opportunity for all of us to pull in the same direction, so on behalf of all of us in Rutland City, we are pleased to be a major supporter.”
“I don’t know if you all know, but the projection for the population in Rutland County is that the population will actually decrease and I think we can all agree that that’s not a great thing for any of us. One of the things we’re trying work on through this Killington Valley Initiative is how to reverse that trend,” said Killington Resort President Mike Solimano Friday evening at the Peak Lodge.
Indeed, Rutland County faces serious population decline, according to a recent demographic study presented by REDC. One scenario predicts that the county’s population will decrease by 12.1 percent by 2030. Implications of decreased population include decreased property values, tax base, local retailers, restaurants, employees and employers, to name a few, as Lyle Jepson, dean of entrepreneurial programs at Castleton University and executive director at Rutland Economic Development Corporation, frequently notes at regional presentations.
But Jepson is optimistic that the regional marketing initiatives can have the desired impact and reverse this trend.
“One of our secrets is we have jobs,” said Jepson, Friday. “We have high paying jobs in our region.”
According to Jepson, are over 80 jobs open in Rutland County that pay over $43,000, with many more jobs available that pay less. “We’re the best place to live, that’s our secret and we’re letting that secret out.”
“There used to be an invisible line between Rutland and Killington,” Jepson continued. “But not any longer.”
In addition to the regional effort, Jepson credited Mayor Allaire and Solimano for making such progress possible.
“I live in Rutland and I obviously work in Killington,” Solimano said. “It’s amazing that it’s taken this long for the Killington area and the Rutland area to realize that when we work together we can accomplish a lot more than if we work on our own.”