Sean Hayes learned about synergy at an early age, upon hearing that his grandfather, a dairy farmer in Rocky Hill, had turned his milk delivery business into a successful, long-running school bus company.
"He delivered milk and all of the kids would come out, so he just started picking them up and bringing them to school," he says.
The third-generation entrepreneur now has a synergy plan all his own — restore Powder Ridge ski area in Middlefield as a compliment to Brownstone Exploration and Discovery Park, his successful adventure park in Portland.
The park, which Hayes operates with help from two older brothers, to the town's historic brownstone quarries, where long abandoned quarry walls now surround scuba divers, wake-boarders and rock climbers.
In Middlefield, Hayes is looking to leverage a ski area that in its heyday attracted 100,000 visitors each winter. His plan, unlike previous proposals, is far less reliant on snow, he says, because the market has changed.
"A single sport facility cannot succeed in this local market. So what you have to do is create a destination for more than a single purpose. This will be an X-Games type facility," he says, referring to the annual extreme sports event hosted by ESPN. "Trust me, we will draw traffic from New York City."
While Hayes initially spent just $100,000 to bring Brownstone back, he expects to invest between $4-$5 million to get Powder Ridge up and running again. The "night-and-day" difference in infrastructure improvements required, he says, is the main reason he decided against leasing the property, an agreement Brownstone enjoys with the Town of Portland.
"It has worked out very, very well for us," says Susan Bransfield, the town's first selectman.
Under a 25-year lease agreement with the town, Bransfield said Brownstone returns 15-percent of all ticket sales back to Portland. Since opening in the spring of 2007, Brownstone has paid the town more than $524,000 according to financial records.
"It's a nice revenue source. It's a tourist attraction and its a very useful function of our quarries that were abandoned and weren't being used which is not unlike what's happening in Middlefield," Bransfield says.
For the time being, Hayes has turned his attention to Powder Ridge which he has agreed to buy from the town of Middlefield for $700,000 and for which he plans to invest millions more to turn the ski area into a winter sports park.
Following a presentation last week to residents during a public hearing, Hayes returned to the property this weekend where he enthusiastically repeated his plans, which include a fine dining restaurant, spa and retail shops, a boardwalk, as well as a ski lodge, bar and cafeteria.
And of course, synthetic ski slopes.
"It is a new business model. It's taken us six years to formulate, refine and define everything in that business plan. It works, we know how to make it work. We're going to implement here."
Hayes has said all along that his success in Middlefield depends on whether the town supports his ideas. Later this month, he will host the first of at least two meet-and-greets at Powder Ridge where residents are welcome to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns.
The initial meet-and-greet scheduled for Saturday, March 24, at noon, will focus on Hayes' building restoration plan. At the second meet-and-greet (not yet scheduled) he plans to share his vision of the property's expansion.
Success, Hayes says, won't come overnight. Then again, he knows patience pays off.
"I learned a long time ago you don't buy 400 buses all at once. You buy 20 buses every year."