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Cos Goes South reaches audience

Kaleigh Morneau, a WMRHS senior who participates in the Mountain View Academy program manned the Mountain View Grand food table at the Cos Goes South event in Concord last week. Students from the Mountain View Academy a hotel management vocational program made possible by the partnering of White Mountains Regional High School and the Mountain View Grand served as ambassador/hosts for Cos, walking the State House lawn with drink trays and greeting legislators throughout the day. (Photo by Rick Grima) (click for larger version)
May 20, 2009
CONCORD — It was mission accomplished for event organizers looking to raise the profile of Cos County in Concord. A massive effort presenting food from the grand hotels and White Mountains Community College, as well as business and arts displays, drew the attention of legislators, state employees and even workers from the businesses located around the State House, onto the lawn to enjoy the best Cos County had to offer last Tuesday for the first ever Cos Goes South event.

"This is a wonderful event," said Representative Jessie Osborn of Concord. "It tells people around here there's something north of the notch. I think it's a great move."

Rep. Osborn was just one of many legislators the organizers had hoped to reach with the event, which was conceived as a way of replacing the bus tours of the North Country that used to be organized for legislators. Even Rep. Ed Gionet of Lincoln agreed that the event was a success. "I think Cos had a good idea."

Jim Tibbetts of Colebrook, who has been credited by many as the brains behind the concept, said that this event evolved out of the efforts of North Country Council and the Cos Economic Development Corp. to create the Cos Action Plan by identifying strategies to get Cos moving forward. Mr. Tibbetts said that there are lots of headlines for things that go wrong in Cos — lost jobs, fires. "Very little good news," makes the headlines, however.

The Cos Goes South day in Concord was a way for the county to show the rest of the state the things that are going right in the northernmost reaches of the Granite State, Mr. Tibbetts explained and provided "just a sample of what's going on."

The food from the hotels got the crowd to gather and from there, organizers hoped many of those attending would be drawn to the displays set up on the lawn and in the state office building. Organizations like the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire and Northern Community Investment Corp shared information about the status of art and technology in Cos to anyone willing to listen. Healthcare, education, and energy were also represented with White Mountains Community College, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital and Clean Energy all on hand to talk about the state of their industry and plans for the future.

Mr. Tibbetts said the representation from every sector of the economy, including a display of modern logging machinery on the sidewalk in front of the State House, showed that where the economic efforts in Cos used to be regionalized, they are united. "We're working together now," he explained. The diversity of economic sectors was repeated in the representative coverage of nearly every geographic area of Cos by the assembled businesses. Clean Energy is in the process of finalizing permits for a 29 MW biomass plant in Berlin, while AB Logging operates across the county in Lancaster. The 45th Parallel Ambulance service was also represented and covers the northern reaches of Cos. Add in the trio of grand hotels — Mount Washington, Mountain View Grand and The Balsams — and southern Cos all the way to Dixville is in the mix.

Gov. John Lynch made an appearance at the event to declare May 12, Cos Goes South Day. "I really do have enormous affection for Cos County," he told the crowd prior to reading his proclamation. He called the displays "reflective of all that the North Country has to offer" and identified Cos as an "integral part" of the state with "abundant natural resources."

The result was everything organizers had hoped for, according to the legislators from the south of the notches. Rep Bob Mead of Mont Vernon, who said he hadn't been north in three or four years, called the display "fantastic" noting that "the North Country is probably undersold in its offerings."

Local bank employees who came over to check out the excitement also raved, saying the event made them think about heading north.

Rep. Andrew Renzullo of Hudson, also used "fantastic" to describe the exhibit. He said the use of the food tent to get the lawmakers to take notice was especially smart as "the way to a legislator's heart is through his stomach." What made the event more special was that it had never been done before — no other county had ever presented itself this way, he explained. "My hat's off to who ever organized it. It really does highlight all that the area has to offer."

After visiting the business displays Rep. Renzullo said he found the purpose of the event sufficiently served. He explained that as a southern legislator it often seems as if there's a "north versus south" pull in the voting chamber with many feeling "they're (Cos) always asking for stuff."

"This, I think breaks down that barrier and allows people to see Cos has something to offer. Whoever did this did a lot for the image of the county," he said.

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