By Katy Savage
The Woodstock Select Board approved last week the Economic Development Commission’s proposal to spend $110,000 to market the town.
Class Four, a marketing firm in Burlington, will be hired under a one-year contract to develop videos and photos that capture the Woodstock lifestyle to increase tourism, attract new residents and entice new business owners.
EDC member Patrick Fultz, who attended the Select Board meeting on Aug. 17, said the hope is that digital marketing efforts will bring more website traffic and more money to Woodstock.
“Everything we’re going to do is going to be measured, tried and proven,” Fultz told Select Board members.
Fultz compared Woodstock to Stowe, which has built a brand around skiing. “Let’s let Woodstock be a non-ski place that everyone wants to come to, let’s build that reputation up,” Fultz said.
The proposal came to the Select Board after the EDC approved the expenditure 6-2 on Aug. 5. The Select Board approved the proposal 4-1, with Select Board member John Doten Jr. turning it down.
Doten’s vote came after Joe DiNatale, a member of the EDC, urged the Select Board to reject the proposal. DiNatale questioned the need for marketing.
“We’re not AT&T, we’re not General Motors, we’re Woodstock, Vermont,” DiNatale said, pointing to larger problems, like the lack of shops and restaurants.
“We will not have enough restaurants, we may not have enough stores filled and here we are going to direct market this town? For what?” DiNatale questioned.
There was also concern about the EDC’s previous $70,000 expense on a public relations firm, which was deemed largely unsuccessful.
But Select Board member Keri Cole said the marketing effort this time may make it more enticing for business owners to invest in Woodstock.
“That’s where I see its value,” she said.
Fultz admitted nobody knows for sure how much the marketing effort was needed.
The EDC’s budget comes from Woodstock’s 1% option tax, which generated $300,000 in 2019 before dipping to about $200,000 in 2020 as a result of the pandemic.
The Class Four expenditure will be split over three years, with $27,000 coming from the 2020 marketing budget and the remainder from the 2021 and 2022 budget. The EDC and Select Board members agreed to not spend money on advertising until at least next May, when the heavy influx of traffic, a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, is expected to fizzle.
Class Four will develop a digital library for the town’s website and social media pages in the meantime. The company will work closely with Jennifer Schmidtke, the social media coordinator for the EDC, as well as the EDC’s Marketing Working Group, which includes marketing leaders at the Woodstock Inn and Resort and ArtisTree, the Woodstock Village Trustees and the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce.