By Evan Johnson
RUTLAND—Vermont Congressman Peter Welch got an inside look at the Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce’s efforts to increase the visibility of the Rutland area while on a statewide swing through the state last week. Welch sat down with business and community leaders on the steering committee on Thursday afternoon, April 13.
Green Mountain Power’s Steve Costello, who serves on the board of directors, said the chamber’s efforts included input from around the county. “It’s been remarkable how quickly we came together to find common ground and ways to work together,” he said.
Costello and others said the committee was working to combat the downward trends of housing sales and population. “It’s a huge issue and we’re hoping to tackle that,” he said. “It’s going to take years. It’s not going to be an overnight thing.”
In February, the Chamber selected Brattleboro-based Mondo Media Works to spearhead a regional marketing campaign aimed at rebranding the greater Rutland region.
The campaigns will have three key focuses — population growth; improved tourism marketing; and an intensive effort to retain more local students and young professionals. Mondo’s Luke Stafford has promised unique campaigns with various media. The Vermont company was unanimously selected out of a pool of nearly two-dozen bids.
Recently, the chamber raised $215,000, including 100,000 from the city to support the first year of the initiative.
“Marketing hasn’t been on anyone’s list in so long,” Rutland Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Mary Cohen said. “Nobody can do it individually. Any growth that happens in Rutland will benefit the region.”
Lyle Jepson, who heads the Rutland Economic Development Corporation (REDC) also talked about efforts to unify the entire region under the brand of the “Killington Valley” that promoted the recreational and cultural resources of the region and gave residents a source of pride.
“We’ve got to market to ourselves too,” Jepson said. “We’ve got to change how we feel about ourselves here and then we can market to the outside world.”
Sara Gilbert, who serves as an associate director of REDC described efforts to welcome arriving young people as part of the Rutland Young Professionals, an organization she helps manage as president.
In response to this news, Welch said he wished Washington D.C. had as much cooperation as he said he saw during his time in Rutland. “It’s kind of humbling to be here because we’re so messed up in D.C. right now,” he said.
The group gathered for a photo before the congressman was out the door and on to his next appointment.