Thirty-second ads touting Rutland have begun to air on cable TV networks in Burlington and Plattsburgh, Boston and Hartford and even Rutland.
It’s part of a $200,000 marketing campaign to attract new residents. Officials in Rutland say the goal is to showcase lifestyle, change perceptions and highlight employment opportunities in the county.
Mary Cohen, Executive Director of the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce, says the push for a comprehensive marketing plan began in earnest last year as more and more business owners complained they were having a hard time filling jobs.
“Whether it’s a small employer or large employer, they’re saying they need work force and where can we get it? Unemployment is 3 percent,” says Cohen, “which is basically full employment, so the only option is to get people to live here.”
“So, we said, ‘Okay that’s our ten year plan, how can we start?’”
Cohen says they began by raising $200,000, half from local businesses and half from the city of Rutland. Neighboring towns have also contributed.
Mondo Mediaworks, a Brattleboro-based firm was hired to create the campaign.
Videos they created touting activities in the broader Killington Valley area have already been released, part of an ongoing effort to attract young people and rebrand the region.
But at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting this week, local audiences will see what the company has come up with to market Rutland County specifically.
A video which is airing in Boston and Hartford starts with a little girl climbing an apple tree then shows people skiing, mountain biking, paddleboarding and fishing.
An easy-going voice over talks about someplace real; A happy-place where people choose lifestyle first and then figure the rest out.
It ends by encouraging viewers to find out more by going to realrutland.com, a website (and Facebook page) where people can find out more or share their knowledge.
Cohen says they have local experts lined up to answer any questions that come in and she’s also looking forward to spreading awareness.
“It’s about, tell us what you love about Rutland if you’re a Rutlander,” she says.
“Or I can imagine my daughter, who lives in Colorado now, getting on social media and telling what she misses about Rutland, says Cohen, "because there's a lot of stuff that she misses.”
Cohen says she's really excited by the campaign so far.
“We’re all really pleased with the outcomes. So the next six months [the ads] are going to be out there and tested and measured so we’ll see what kind of response we get.”
City officials say there’s a lot at stake.
Tyler Richardson, Assistant Director for the Rutland Economic Development Corporation says the county’s population, like much of Vermont’s, is aging and shrinking.
“What we’re looking at is significant population decline, projected going forward anywhere from 3 percent all the way up to 12 percent if things get pretty bad.”
“It’s an emergency,” he says.
Richardson, who’s 39 and moved to Rutland from Nebraska two years ago, is exactly the kind of young professional the city wants more of.
So is Dan Doenges, a 32-year-old small business owner who moved back to Rutland with his wife.
Doenges says people aren’t going to move to the area after watching a video, but he says if Rutland wants to be a contender, it’s got to put itself out there.
And he says he thinks the city got it right with the multi platform marketing approach they're launching.
“I’m hoping that this will actually be a leader for small towns across the United States to find their own voice and to realize that they can market themselves and they can put themselves out there — just like any business would," Doenges says, "because you don’t know about something and how great it is unless it’s in front of you, so this is the best way to do that.”
Both to attract new residents and change the perception of the community among locals, which he and many others admit may be the biggest challenge.
Mary Cohen says it won’t happen overnight. “This will be a long-term marketing effort,” she says, “that will need continual support from towns throughout the county in order to make it sustainable.”
But she says she’s optimistic that it will happen, adding, “This is just the start of the conversation.”