MANCHESTER -- Southern Vermont has a new brand.

On Thursday, April 3, The Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing unveiled the new marketing campaign for Bennington and Windham counties.

Steve Cook, with the Department of Tourism and Marketing, said there has been an effort in the past year to redevelop and create a marketing plan for the southern region of the state. The four chambers of commerce in the area worked with Ben Wright from Atlas Media to create the plan.

"He and his team have really discovered some really interesting aspects that we will be promoting in collaboration with southern Vermont," Cook said.

The plan Wright unveiled focused on the creation of a regional website, with the tagline "So Vermont," as well as planned tourism advertisements telling visitors to "Become a Vermonter for a weekend." Wright said this rebranding is bringing together the communities of southern Vermont, which has had its challenges, including the flooding from Hurricane Irene and the recent bad press related to heroin and opiate addiction. However, he said southern Vermont is a proud and creative area that is getting back on its feet.

"What we hope to gain [with this campaign] is increased awareness with a regional website, additional visitation, which is kind of the thing we all want, with the growth in the working population as well," Wright said. "There's not a lot of campaigns that say we want you to come here but we also want you to stay. I don't mean stay in a hotel, I mean stay for life."

The state has pledged $75,000 to the campaign.

Laura Sibilia, the Director of Economic Development with the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, said this marketing plan originally came out of the response to Hurricane Irene. Working with the Windham and Bennington Regional Commissions, they put together an application for federal disaster funding.

"And though this project started out as a disaster response, we thought that this had a lot of opportunity to turn into something sustainable for southern Vermont ...

Sree Sreevanisan, the chief digital officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, gave the keynote address at this week’s Travel Industry
Sree Sreevanisan, the chief digital officer for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, gave the keynote address at this week's Travel Industry Conference at The Equinox, leading a discussion about social media and its role in tourism and marketing. (Manchester Journal photo)
and has a long term benefit to building the economy here," she said.

This partnership, along with the chambers of commerce created the group who would help with the creation and distribution of the new marketing plan. The way the campaign is structured allows for chambers and towns with existing brands to be inserted into advertising, Wright said. He said this campaign is geared toward attracting more 20- to 40-year-olds to the region. Part of how they will attract this demographic to stay is the addition of a jobs portal on the regional website.

Pat Moulton Powden, the executive director of the Brattleboro Development Credit Corporation, said the there is currently a hiring inventory -- that projects the kinds of jobs that will be opening -- going on in Windham County, and which will soon spread to Bennington County.

"The jobs portal aspect of the website, we will actually be listing available jobs in Bennington and Windham County," she said. "That inventory will catalogue the number of openings due to turnover and growth that are largest employers are going to see in the next five years and we know that is going to be in the hundreds if not thousands of jobs. So we'll have that data. That's really going to help pull people."

Megan Smith, the director of the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing said this plan could be applied to the rest of the state as well. "We should really think of taking this state wide," she said. "It is so timely we would have this [marketing plan] unveiled at same time we were in Southern Vermont."

Organizer Laura Sibilia said the group hopes to start the marketing campaign in the fall.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.