NEWPORT, VT - Rep. Peter Welch made several stops in the Orleans County area with a final stop at the Eastside Restaurant yesterday. Welch listened in on the Vermont's North Country Chamber of Commerce awards presentations before giving a 20-minute speech of his own.
In an interview with the Newport Daily Express afterward, the congressman talked about Newport’s ability to have a dynamic tourist industry in such a beautiful setting.
"You have incredible attractions for tourists here," said Welch. "You start with the lake, which is the crown jewel. I’m amazed that more Vermonters don’t know about how beautiful this lake is. You would expect a lot of in-state tourism as well as regional tourists. Of course, as far as the Orleans County area, Jay Peak is doing a tremendous job and, with high gas prices, it could be an advantage. People will tend to not travel as far for vacations and end up going closer to home. That could bring them here to this region. So I think the Newport area has to keep pushing this area hard.”
That means a focused marketing plan, he said.
"We all know small businesses are the key to prosperity," said Welch. "The businesses in Vermont are like families. The employees and the employers have been together with mutual support. Their customers have long-term relationships. That’s a very attractive way to live and work. People like to work in a situation where all the workers can mutually benefit.”
The representative, a Democrat, gave a little tongue and cheek message to Community National Bank President Steve Marsh after Marsh introduced Welch. Marsh gave a little of his own political history of being to the political right. In fact, Marsh remarked, "My father was way to the right. My mother was so far to the right she was basically in the next county.”
Marsh also commended Welch, “On spearheading the passing of a bill that raised the notice on reporting to the Securities and Exchange Commission from banks with a government mandated 500 shareholders to the current more realistic number at 2000 shareholders before paperwork is filed to the SEC.” This change saved small banks substantial amounts of money.
When I asked Rep. Welch if Steve Marsh would be considered as a speech writer for his staff, Welch said, "He’s pretty good. I tell you, if anyone deserves to get a little ribbing, it’s somebody in political office. And Steve wasn’t shy about doing it.”
Gloria Bruce, executive director of the Northeast Kingdom Travel and Tourism Association, echoed some of Welch’s statements,
"What we need to see in the communities around the Northeast Kingdom is a more strategic, practical approach to tourism development," she said. "It’s a very, very competitive industry. We have a lot of serious competitors in other destinations around the state. We are urging our NEK folks to figure out what they have to sell and to get it out in the marketplace. We work with the chamber, we work with the Newport City Renaissance Corporation, and the North Country Career Center. We try to address all different types of issues. We’re hopeful that, as our marketing campaigns grow, we will have a really competitive product that we are ready to service well.”