RUTLAND — Castleton University and an organization dedicated to promoting the economy of Rutland County have extended an agreement to work together to boost business in the region.
The university and the Rutland Economic Development Corp. formed the partnership about 18 months ago and have recently announced they are extending it three more years.
Lyle Jepson, REDC executive director and dean of entrepreneurial studies at the university, called the extension of the partnership a “natural evolution” of the process.
“One thing that is very important to the public and our community is that they know there’s going to be consistency over time,” Jepson said Friday. “I think people want to know there’s going to be consistent delivery of economic development services.”
The agreement calls for REDC to pay the university $6,667 a month, which pays a share of the cost of the office space for the organization, personnel expenses and other resources.
REDC is located in Castleton Downtown in the Opera House on Merchants Row in Rutland. Castleton Downtown also houses university programs and courses as well as The Castleton Polling Institute.
Jepson is expected, under the agreement, to balance his time evenly between the position at REDC and his post at the university.
Over the past 18 months since the partnership formed, Jepson talked of other ongoing collaborative efforts to promote economic development, pointing to the Rutland Marketing Initiative to help address the declining population of the region.
The initiative, according to Jepson, seeks to highlight the high-skill, high-paying jobs available in the region.
REDC and the Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce raised more than $200,000 from businesses and organizations around the region. Surrounding towns have also pitched in. Rutland City put up the biggest chunk of money, contributing $100,000.
The marketing effort is also seeking to promote tourism in the region, Jepson said, with the hope of enticing visitors to consider living, working or starting a business in the area.
A company, Mondo Mediaworks of Brattleboro, has been hired to help develop the marketing campaign, which includes an effort to promote the region as the Killington Valley to tourists, highlighting outdoor recreational opportunities.
The Killington Valley initiative launched a website in November, describing the valley as an “outdoor adventure capital.”
Jepson also highlighted REDC’s work, along with others, in the recent opening of The MINT, Rutland Makerspace, and in providing office management and other resources for the Rutland Young Professionals organization.
Also, he said, over past 18 months the organization has given out about $500,000 in loans and grants to support businesses, Jepson said.
REDC has annual budget of about $472,000, and receives funding from several sources, including the state, memberships and rental income.
Castleton University President David Wolk called the partnership with REDC a “one-of-its-kind” relationship.
“The collaboration has led to a more streamlined approach to all of our experiential learning efforts and has helped us to forge a much deeper bond with Rutland, providing our students with opportunities to transition quickly from the classroom to area businesses for internships and careers,” Wolk said in a statement announcing the partnership extension.
“Students come here for an education and quickly realize the region is a great place to live, work, and play after graduation.”
REDC board President Mark Foley Jr. said the partnership has yielded “positive results” in the past 18 months.
“We are excited to continue this partnership and grateful for the leadership, vision, and collaborative spirit of Lyle and his team, which have collectively helped us turn great ideas into positive outcomes for the county and the state of Vermont,” Foley said in a statement.