By Curt Peterson
On Monday night, Nov. 28, Killington Select Board voted unanimously to increase annual financial support for the Chamber and Economic Development of the Rutland Region (CEDRR) from $1,500 per year to $5,000 — more than tripling the town’s contribution.
Selectman Jim Haff made the original motion to double the town’s support, raising it to $3,000, but Selectman Chris Karr felt CEDRR’s effort and focus on Killington warranted at least $4,500. Haff then advocated “rounding up” to $5,000.
Haff said the organization was very helpful in moving the 1 -year-long Tax Increment Financed District (TIF) project along.
CEDRR Executive Director Lyle Jepson laughed. “The TIF program was never designed for a resort town — it was Killington’s perseverance that made it work.”
The board’s action followed a brief presentation by Jepson and CEDRR Communications and Marketing Manager Olivia Lyons, highlighting the area’s shortage of skilled workers to fill jobs at small and large companies, and documenting the success of CEDRR’s Real Rutland Weekend Getaway campaign that has attracted new residents. The executives aim to visit every Rutland County town asking for continued support of CEDRR’s various programs.
Lyons said more than 100,000 people were reached in the Weekend Getaway nationwide campaign. At offer was an invitation to visit the area and enjoy dining, cultural and recreational opportunities while pursuing a guided tour of Rutland County and, particularly, “the Killington experience”, she said.
Many of the visitors are what Lyons referred to as “climate refugees” fleeing heat, floods or fires or “political refugees,” driven to the area to feel safe.
CEDRR enjoys the services of 30 volunteer “concierges” who are hand-picked to be compatible with visitors whom they host and guide.
“The underlying question is always, Don’t you want to move here?,” Lyons said. “They all loved the place.”
One couple was so impressed they actually made an offer on a house in the area during their visit. “The offer wasn’t accepted, but they are still looking,” Lyons said.
According to Jepson, 200 families have moved to the region, but CEDRR was in direct contact with only half of them, so he doesn’t want to take credit.
The “Killington Experience” isn’t just a phrase trotted out for local selectmen. One of the Weekend Getaway mantras is, “You can’t get in 100 days unless you live here,” meaning days skiing or riding on local slopes in a season. Killington has a 100 Days Club for those that complete the challenge.
Killington Resort contributes $10,000 per year to CEDRR, plus providing complimentary swag, special rates for accommodations, and personal participation at organization events by Killington Resort President Mike Solimano and Communications Director Amy Laramie, Jepson said.
Killington’s original $1,500 investment was a membership fee based on the number of town employees (16-25). Annual membership fees range from $300 (non-profit with up to three employees), to $4,500 (over 150 employees).
Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth said the $5,000 contribution will be budgeted as an “appropriation” rather than dues.