Economic development can bring millions to the Deerfield Valley

DOVER — Economic development is easy to talk about but difficult to achieve.

Our district's gorgeous landscape and laid-back, rural culture present us with a unique set of challenges.

Some people in our district fear that economic development will destroy the Vermont way of life we all cherish. They fear that condos will replace farms, that new businesses will replace time-honored trades, and that increased tourism will ruin our tranquil afternoons.

I believe that economic development means strengthening our existing agricultural, artistic, and manufacturing industries.

It means attracting new businesses that fit into Vermont, such as a small tech company or music studio that takes up residence inside an existing barn, or a design firm that creates the next great hiking gear, or an engineering group that makes it easier to export our beloved local goods.

This generational cycle of business is natural and healthy - and it is better for us to control this cycle than to disagree with its existence.

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Since moving to Dover, I have been widely involved with improving our district's economy.

I have helped my family to rejuvenate the West Dover Inn, served as the executive director at the Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce, and started my own economic development firm that has successfully generated over $4 million in revenue for our small businesses and attracted more than 16,000 people to our district. My website has attracted more than 150,000 visits, showcasing our beautiful region to potential visitors and homeowners.

In 2010, I saw an opportunity to work with a growing online marketing company called LivingSocial, which highlights the country's best travel destinations. I flew down to Washington, D.C. to meet with company executives and convinced them they should focus on our area of Vermont.

They came to visit the area, met with innkeepers, and began a relationship with the valley that has sold more than 7,000 travel packages to more than 14,000 new visitors for more than 28,000 room nights. The overwhelming majority of these new visitors have come to Vermont during the summertime and created a new pulse during what was before a “dead” season.

In 2012, I created the Green Mountain Adventure Challenge to showcase our area's hiking trails, and that event has brought more than 2,000 hikers to our district over the last three summers. Not only do these visitors hike here, but they also stay here multiple nights at our inns, eat at our restaurants, shop in our stores, and go home and talk about how wonderful our region is.

In 2013, I took control of the Independent Television and Film Festival and moved it from Los Angeles to Dover, Vermont. While some people thought it was strange to move a Hollywood festival into our quiet mountain valley, they immediately understood the huge impact this festival can have in our district once they experienced it for themselves last fall.

ITVFest in Vermont was such a natural success that it is now committed to stay here through 2017 and is estimated to bring over $2.5 million of new business revenue into our district.

All of these items (the events, the website, the marketing) started as ideas that are now realities, on pace to generate over $6.5 million for our district's small businesses, create well-paying jobs, enhance the vibrancy of our local culture, and contribute to the tax base for our schools and infrastructure.

Economic development can be (and has been) talked to death - with very little results.

I have produced results for our district and created long lasting pieces of our local economy that will continue to grow.

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