Looking for Henry County’s ‘brand’; EDC starts mission to boost local tourism

Plan your next trip to Henry County!

The Convention and Visitors Bureau has teamed up with the county Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to put a new focus on local tourism efforts. In turn, the EDC hopes to grow hometown pride and develop a core identity for Henry County.

The relationship between the CVB and EDC was formalized in September 2020, with the EDC taking over marketing and tourism promotion for Henry County.

“I’m really excited about this,” said EDC President Corey Murphy. “There is a hand-in-glove (relationship) with economic development and tourism. I think a lot of it is about talent retention and talent attraction.”

The two organizations started working together years ago, Murphy explained.

“In 2018, we collaborated and got a (Henry County) Community Foundation grant to fund a tourism study,” Murphy said. “As a result of that, there were conversations between the respective boards of directors about how the two separate not-for-profit organizations work together.”

The conversations sort of fizzled out. And then COVID came along last year, restarting the conversations of a possible EDC-CVB merger.

There is now professional services agreement between the CVB and the EDC. The EDC then got a contract with the Henry County Tourism Commission, which collects the local Innkeepers Tax to market tourist attractions in the area.

Goals

The EDC office now has specific tourism-related goals that they’ve added to the economic development mission.

They want to attract a nation name-brand hotel to the area, which can bring those travelers who use loyalty points when planning their trips. Plans were announce in 2019, for example, to build a Country Inn & Suites hotel just off Interstate 70 by Montgomery’s Steakhouse.

The EDC plans build relationships within tourism alliances that can help Henry County area attractions and businesses. Murphy said Henry County is already planning to join the Indiana Foodways Alliance.

“We’ll be able to invite 10 food-related businesses in the county to be featured on the Foodways Alliance… to help them determine which ‘food trail’ they should be featured on,” he said.

The EDC is working with local marketers WholeHeart Communications to develop a brand that all local tourism efforts will use going forward. The branding process should be complete in 2022.

“The brand is the community, so we want to find out what the community (members) have to say about themselves, what they are most proud of,” WholeHeart owner Christy Ragle said. “When they talk to their friends that live in other communities and invite them to town, where do they go and what do they do?”

WholeHeart is forming a brand development committee of local tourism representatives and community leaders. Murphy said the key is to find a brand that is authentic to Henry County.

The brand and logo they come up with for Henry County will inform everything the EDC does as it develops the local tourist efforts.

Part of that process will be to market Henry County to the people who already live here. The goal will be helping current residents value the treasures here before opening our doors to the world.

“If you create a place where people will want to live and visit, that’s a good thing,” Murphy said.

EDC special projects manager Penny York has started meeting with local tourist attractions, like the New Castle Motorsports Park and the Henry County Saddle Club, to build relationships. The EDC hopes local museums and event venues will also help cross-promote each other to their visitors.

“There’s a lot happening with tourism,” Ragle said. “It might not be visible right now, but it will be soon and it’s going to be really exciting.”

For more information, contact the New Castle-Henry County EDC office at 521-7402.

– Story by Travis Weik (Editor@TheCourierTimes.comof The Courier-Times. Read more local stories at www.TheCourierTimes.com.

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