Published On: Wed, Jan 14th, 2015

New business group ‘VC 2015’ goes public with takeover plan for New Hope visitors center

(L to R) VC 2015 CEO Greg Gauthier, Chairman George Fernandez, and Jim Jolly, former VP of the New Hope Chamber at a recent business meeting.

VC 2015 CEO Greg Gauthier (far left) and Chairman George Fernandez (middle) at a recent business gathering

VC 2015, a new business entity headed by local businessman Greg Gauthier, along with entrepreneur George Fernandez and “a couple of local business owners,” confirmed today that they have submitted a formal offer to New Hope Borough Council to “assume responsibility of the New Hope Visitors Center immediately.”

And the group has held discussions with New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, an 800-pound gorilla in New Hope business circles.

Another gorilla, Bucks County Playhouse, confirmed last week that their senior management is developing a plan to take over responsibility for running the currently-closed New Hope visitors center at the request of New Hope Borough Council.

“Our team has spent the past few months investigating the situation, talking with various groups which included most business categories,” acknowledged Gauthier, who is also one of the steering committee members of the newly-formed New Hope Business Alliance, and co-chaired the Christmas tree lighting effort. “We also met with some Borough council members to discuss our ideas,” he added.

Gauthier’s wife, Leslie, opened the Village Toy Shoppe of New Hope on North Main last spring after more than 30 years in Peddler’s Village.

“It is our belief that the visitors center could and should become the launching pad for a vibrant local economy. As you can see from our plans, we want to redefine customer service both for the visitor and also to local New Hope businesses,” remarked Gauthier. “We are not an investment group — this is a roll-up-your-sleeves group that plans on managing the day-to-day business. We are willing to put skin in the game because we are already invested in the community,” he continued.

Like the Playhouse proposal, VC 2015 envisions the visitors center not as the somewhat passive walk-in facility it has been in the past, where tourists could simply wash up, and get quarters for parking meters and directions to places of interest, but as the hub of a larger marketing and tourism effort to promote the borough economy, help non-profit groups, benefit participating businesses, and benefit investors.

A Bucks County Playhouse spokesperson described significant progress being made in discussions with prior manager Visit Bucks County, but was not prepared to go into detail on their potential business model at this “early stage of the process.”

The VC 2015 proposal sees the group working closely with the newly-formed New Hope Business Alliance, the New Hope Chamber of Commerce, Lambertville Chamber of Commerce, local non-profit groups, and others to create what partners describe as an “inclusive visitors center.”

“Our program is the creation of an all-encompassing marketing, promotion and customer service entity servicing New Hope and the area. We are operating as a for-profit business,” said Gauthier.

Under the VC 2015 proposal, the visitors center will offer expanded retail services, visitors’ packages, concierge services, shopping and cash cards, reservations, and other promotions. Reservation and box office capability will be offered at a fee.

However, “I don’t believe that you should have to pay to be recommended by the New Hope Visitors Center,” said Gauthier, who also indicated that the new group will hire a full-time business manager, and could organize events like the annual Christmas tree lighting, the Arts and Crafts Festival, and fireworks shows.

Gauthier also commented on potential competition for the visitors center in the form of the Bucks County Playhouse plan being developed under the auspices of New Hope’s political leadership. “We have already met with the Playhouse because we respect them immensely. Although they have expressed interest in the visitors center, and may have a different plan than ours, we want to work with them on this project,” he said. “The end result is a strong local economy that is driven by more visitors, and additional services for our community. That is what we both desire.”

“We have also met with ownership of the New Hope and Ivyland Railway, to discuss possible opportunities,” continued Gauthier. “They are a driving force behind feet on our streets in this community, they have marketing expertise, and they want to see a strong New Hope.

“Our group believes that a strong visitors center is required in the revitalization of this great town,” Gauthier continued. “Our group believes that a visitors center, requires a single entity as management but needs to be all inclusive as a strategy. We believe that the visitors center needs to be the driving force behind expanded tourism, through a new marketing and promotions strategy, and by being more aggressive in promoting New Hope, its merchants, restaurants, theater, museums, scenic environment, and the community itself, which is vibrant and rich in history.”

New Hope’s visitors center, located at the corner of West Mechanic and South Main streets, has been closed since Dec. 31.

 

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