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Sununu predicts a bright future for Waterville Resort

Waterville Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Joe Collie presents the Business of the Year Award to Jennifer Leonzi from the Country Cow Restaurant at Blair Bridge in Campton. (Marcia Morris) (click for larger version)
November 22, 2011
CAMPTON—At the Annual Waterville Valley Region Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet last Friday night, Waterville Valley Ski Resort CEO and Executive Councilor Chris Sununu was brimming with enthusiasm for the future as he addressed chamber members at the event, touting recent improvements and upgrades at the mountain, and hinting at expansion plans for the future.

It has been just over one year since the Sununu family purchased the Waterville Valley Ski Resort. At the annual dinner last year, the Waterville Chamber was celebrating the change in ownership as a harbinger of good things to come, a return to the local, family and community oriented strategy for success at the mountain, and a reemergence of the vision that originally inspired founding father Tom Corcoran and his team at Waterville Valley.

"Our first year has been really great," said Sununu. "We have been able to achieve a lot of our strategic mission and build on the tremendous foundation that has made Waterville great. Our goal is to rebuild and reestablish the era of the family resort, working with our local and community partners to bring the entire Waterville Region together so that all of us can thrive. None of us can do it in isolation."

While everyone in attendance at the Annual Dinner would admit that this past year has brought its fair share of challenges, the mood was upbeat and determined as area businesses expressed gratitude that so many have managed to weather both Hurricane Irene and the economic doldrums of recession and a painfully slow recovery.

As Waterville Region Chamber Director Joe Collie presented the Business of the Year Award to Jennifer Leonzi of the Country Cow Restaurant in Campton, he noted that "the Cow," located on the Pemigewasset River at the Blair Bridge, was one of the area businesses that had suffered badly as a result of the flooding from Hurricane Irene.

"But by Thursday of that week, they were able to reopen, and they have been able to bounce back from that adversity," said Collie.

He also praised the good folks at the Country Cow for their "exceptional community spirit," noting that they generously hosted the Waterville Chamber's first annual Taste of the Valley event this past year, and regularly sponsor numerous events to support local charities and causes.

This past July, the Country Cow hosted the sixth annual "Redneck Regatta" on the Pemigewasset River, and raised more than $5,000 for one local and one national charity, chosen by the participants. In March each year, the restaurant hosts the St. Baldrick's Day "shave-your-head" event as well. This year, the event raised $10,000 for children's cancer research and the local Keeping You, Me, and Memories Alive (KYMMA) cancer support organization. (Kudos to Tony Pierce of Tony's Italian Grille for getting caught up in the enthusiasm and shaving his head for the cause!)

Joe Campbell was chosen as Waterville Chamber's Volunteer of the Year for his dedicated work with area youth through the Plymouth Regional Huskies Football Program and other sports activities.

"I do it because I love it," explained Campbell. "I am happy to wake up at 5 a.m. and drive across the state for a football game. My kids are involved, and I love it."

He also said he loves working at Waterville Estates for General Manager Corey Smith.

"I absolutely love my job. I am able to do what I do for the community because I work for a great company with great members. I am a proud member of the Campton/Thornton and Plymouth communities," he said.

He also put a plug in for "friendly family and affordable night skiing at Campton Mountain" at Waterville Estates, reopened last year after a decade or so hiatus—another significant accomplishment of the last year in the Waterville Region.

Chamber members also took time out to recognize Kelly Bryer as Waterville Valley Regional Chamber Board Member of the Year, recognizing her outstanding contributions as co-secretary of the organization, Chair of the Marketing and Membership Committee, and the brains behind redesigning the Chamber Web site.

"She has helped to make it more user-friendly, with a neater, cleaner look and a regional calendar of events that is yielding positive results for chamber members," said Collie.

Before taking to the dance floor to the 1970's disco tunes that provided the theme for the evening's event, Chamber members were energized to hear keynote speaker Sununu outline changes at the region's anchor Ski Resort, as well as prospects for the future.

Sununu said that the family had spent a lot of money this past year on upgrades at the mountain in the effort to position the ski resort and the region to be in an excellent position when the economy takes off once again. He assured his listeners that this would happen eventually and that Waterville will be ready when it does.

The mountain has upgraded lifts and snowmaking capabilities; they have bought a new bus and a new trolley, and have improved just about every aspect of the facility to some degree. But Sununu emphasized that Waterville is succeeding because of a great senior management team and a terrific staff.

"We had a strong season last year, and that has gotten everyone very excited," said Sununu. "You've just got to put your money into customer service, and into your employees. That is what makes the place run. I know our customers are going to be coming back because our staff is polite, kind, energetic and helpful. If you treat your employees well, it will transfer to your customers, and everybody will be happy."

Finally, he said that Waterville is looking to expand in the future, with the addition of new ski trails. Pointing out that the resort has not had a new trail since the 1980's, he said that he couldn't be specific because the design and permitting process is just getting underway.

"The plans are pretty big," said Sununu.

He indicated that he is looking for feedback and support from his fellow Waterville businesses in the hope that the changes will help revitalize the entire region.

"This economy is coming back," said Sununu. "It will be strong in New Hampshire because our fundamentals are strong. We are going to keep those fundamentals in place, and build on them. When the economy comes back, we are all going to be in a position to really thrive. We will be ready."

Martin Lord Osman
Salmon Press
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