EAST BURKE -- All eyes are on the development prospects of Bill Stenger and his partners at Burke Mountain, in their long-hoped-for expansion of the resort to include hotels, expanded four-season amenities and more.
With the group's purchase of Burke Mountain last year they joined an already strong economic development and tourism community here. Groups like the Burke Area Chamber of Commerce, the Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association (NEKTTA), Northern Community Investment Corp. (NCIC), and the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) are working to develop the Northeast Kingdom 'brand,' said NEKTTA Executive Director Gloria Bruce.
The various organizations and area residents attended a meeting last week. According to Bruce, the effort underway "will allow for community evaluation of the positioning of the Northeast Kingdom."
Mike Welch, Northeast Kingdom Director of Economic Development for NCIC, agreed on Monday that the process is off to a strong start, saying, "It was great to see 60 people from all over the Northeast Kingdom come together to discuss a regional brand. People spoke very passionately about some of the attributes that make the Kingdom a special place. Scenic beauty, outdoor recreation opportunities, and neighbors that are hard-working, honest and dependable were echoed by many as strengths. Poverty, transportation costs, and lack of updated infrastructure -- including cell service, high-speed broadband, and substandard bridges and roadways -- were cited as some of the weaknesses."
Welch continued, stating, "This is an opportunity for our region to create a common image that can be used for much more than tourism promotion."
Bruce said that brand identity is not strictly tourism-related, "but is meant to be a brand identity for all facets of the Kingdom." After issuing a request for proposals for the project, Origin Design and Communications was chosen to work with NEKTTA and their regional partners, said Bruce. Origin's portfolio includes branding for Jay Peak Resort and Newport, as well as Telluride and Whistler.
Bruce said that NEKTTA will work with Origin "to develop a competitive analysis of two to three similar areas that have similar challenges as the Northeast Kingdom." Upon completion of a brand platform and conceptualization document, the final recommendations for the region will be presented by Origin, said Bruce.