I am writing as a follow-up to the story on the Regional Marketing Initiative, to provide important updates unavailable to the reporter at the time.
Thanks to local funders — businesses, communities and nonprofits — we have reached millions of people, highlighted the beauty and opportunities that abound here, and started to change the way Rutland County is viewed in Vermont and the Northeast.
For the past two years, the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce and Rutland Economic Development Corp. have led the initiative to promote the positive qualities and opportunities in the area. The key goal is to grow the population over time.
The serious need to reverse the population trend and bolster the workforce became apparent through research with area employers and data from the Vermont Futures Project and Vermont Department of Labor. There has been substantial effort to improve quality of life, including Rutland City’s work to boost the Northwest neighborhood and reduce crime, development of art galleries and sculptures, creation of a makerspace and improvements and national exposure at Killington, which all provide opportunities to highlight our strengths.
In April 2017, after raising $200,000 from the City of Rutland and 10 businesses, we created a steering committee and hired a marketing firm. Two objectives were identified: support the growth of businesses, and increase the area workforce through a 10-year campaign.
Real Rutland became the name, and RUVT became the symbol. Three subcommittees were created to enhance the marketing campaign. By October 2017, the Real Rutland website was created and the first messaging was out on social media and cable channels.
Strategy for Year 2 continued to focus on the same objectives, telling authentic stories of the people of Rutland County and answering the question “Why Rutland County?” This year’s creative content revolves around six videos and 10 photographic stories of people and how they became Rutland County residents. Some grew up here, moved away and came back, some came 40 years ago and some came last summer. The stories are compelling, and the sense of pride of place is apparent.
We also refreshed the website, adding more interactivity to give visitors the ability to meet the people and explore the entire region. Content continues to be high quality, distributed through the website, social media, cable television, VPR and Spotify platforms in Rutland County, across Vermont, and in the Boston, Hartford and New York/New Jersey metro areas.
The results have been remarkable. We have been able to generate national stories about Rutland County, including an outstanding piece that aired on NBC News, and a wonderful story on National Public Radio a few weeks ago.
Nearly 40,000 people have engaged with Real Rutland on social media. Some of them participated in Vermont’s Stay to Stay program, entered the GMP Innovation Home Contest, and are making plans to move here.
We have seen a dramatic improvement in the way Rutland and the surrounding region is perceived around Vermont. We are also seeing a marked increase in real estate sales and prices.
Looking ahead to Year 3, we are preparing to issue a request for proposals to invite marketing agencies to submit their ideas and capabilities. Mondo Mediaworks, which helped create the current campaign, is changing its focus from marketing to video production. We have been thrilled with Mondo’s work, and will miss them, but we retain all the video, images and data created, and will continue to strategically deploy them.
The RFP will seek ideas from potential vendors on how to build on the resources we have at our disposal.
We will also continue to support Stay to Stay, which has included 30 participants in Rutland County, including two families who have already moved here, 14 who are in the process, and eight looking for ways to do so. We also continue to support The Mint — the local makerspace — as well as the sculpture trail project, Project VISION, a new artists’ residency program and other efforts to revitalize the arts.
In closing, we’d like to thank all our partners: business and municipal funders and the communities at large. Working together, we are changing the region’s image, and can reverse the population trend and bolster the workforce for Rutland County employers.
Mary Cohen is executive director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.