[Originally published in the Rutland County Express on 5/27/10.] Seth Webb is exactly where he wants to be. Just over three months into his new job as director of economic development and tourism for the town of Killington, he is still getting his footing – meeting all the major players, understanding the area and learning its, at times, complicated history.
A graduate of Kenyon College in Ohio, Webb has more than a decade of experience in marketing, special events, tourism and economic development. He has worked for municipal and state governments both domestically and abroad.
From 1998 to 2001, Webb worked in New York City for the Marketing & Events division of the Parks and Recreation Department under the Giuliani Administration. Through public and private partnerships, the division grew into a multi-million dollar source of revenue.
After New York, Webb joined up with the Peace Corps. He headed to Guatemala, where he was a municipal development officer in San Juan Cotzal working on healthcare, clean water, small business and tourism development projects.
Back in the states, he took a job in Chicago with the Illinois state government where, among other projects, he worked to develop the state’s first regional economic development plan and launch a statewide beautification initiative.
Most recently, Webb returned New York to work for Civic Entertainment Group, a marketing and promotions firm that specializes in municipal marketing – what it calls “promotions with a public spirit.” – partnering with companies like CNN, A&E and the White House.
With such an impressive résumé, what brought Webb to Killington? It wasn’t the pay. He noted that he earns significantly less here, but his quality of life makes it worthwhile.
“I’m still working like crazy – weekends, going to meetings every night – but I get to do it here,” Webb said at Killington’s town offices, which sits just past the town recreation center along a winding, scenic stretch of River Road.
According to Webb, he’s been trying to find a way back to New England for a while. When he was younger, he spent time working in New Hampshire at Rockywold-Deephaven Camps, a family friendly retreat situated on the southern edge the White Mountains.
“Killington was an opportunity to do something that meshed with my skills set,” Webb said. “And do it someplace with strong brand names like Killington and Vermont.”
Webb recognizes that the strength of that brand is in outdoor recreation.
As director of economic development and tourism, Webb is tasked with enhancing the town’s tourism-based economy and exploring other ways to diversify Killington’s economy. To achieve this goal, Webb and his staff must bring together the geographically and economically disparate elements that make up the Killington community: the resort, the Chamber of Commerce, small business owners and citizens. The town’s Economic Development and Tourism Commission is a cross-section of these groups.
Historically, these divisions have not only created barriers within the Killington community, but have also been noted throughout the region – particularly, the gulf that has, at times, existed between Rutland and Killington.
“That disconnect doesn’t exist for me,” Webb said. “I don’t have that baggage.”
With 60,000 people in the region, Webb regards Rutland as a key market, asset and partner.
“We can do more if we do it together.”
One effort that will very tangibly bridge this divide is Webb’s proposal to establish Routes 4 and 100 as Vermont Scenic Byways. This designation would make the region eligible for grant money to support marketing projects and infrastructure improvements.
Back on the hill, Webb has been working closely with the resort to build up Killington as a year-round destination. The resort, of course, takes the lead in the wintertime, but the town has a greater role to play in the summer and fall. Such events include The Killington Classic motorcycle rally, a summer concert series, a film festival and the return of the Killington Stage Race.
Looking ahead, Webb is optimistic and excited about new opportunities to promote Killington and the region. Part of his job is identifying ways in which the town can diversify itself economically – expanding educational opportunities with partners like Green Mountain College, growing its retirement community and telecommuting population, and exploring renewable energy projects. Ambitious, to be sure, but not out of the question considering how far Webb and his commission has come in such a short period of time
In the meantime, Webb is content to be doing what he loves in a place where the morning commute is a daily reminder of why he’s here.