Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 24, 2018

Henry County Tourism grants look to increase overnight stays

Sep 26, 2017

By Karyn Spory, Mt. Pleasant News


Four Henry County businesses and organizations will receive a little help in bringing more people to the area as they were selected to participate in the Henry County Tourism Grant Program.

The Red Flag Motor Tour, East Grove Farms, Airport Road Vineyard and Winery, and Iowa Wesleyan University were awarded the first Henry County Tourism Grant.

The grant awards a portion of a $2,500 pool available for the pilot program to the four entities. Kristi Ray, executive vice president of the Mt. Pleasant Chamber Alliance, said the businesses were awarded funds based on their scores.

Ray received 11 applications for the grant and said she was happy the final decision was not up to her. “We had a three-judge panel who rated each portion of the application on a scale from one to five. We then awarded the grant to the four applications with the highest scores.”

The new grant program is aimed toward bringing more people to Henry County and generating overnight stays as the hotel tax generates tourism money. “The gist was do you think (this event) will fill our hotel rooms,” said Ray.

But filling hotel rooms wasn’t the only criteria applications were judged upon. “We also wanted to look at how this impacts the whole county. So much of what we do is just geared toward Mt. Pleasant, that’s why I was so glad that Red Flag Motor Tour was awarded money because they go to New London and all over the county.” Ray also noted East Grove Farms generates revenue for the Salem area.

The Red Flag Motor Tour received funds for their annual Red Flag Horseless Carriage Tour, East Grove Farms for their Old Barn Blues and BBQ Festival and Iowa Wesleyan University’s Homecoming festivities.

“Everyone goes into the grant process knowing it’s going to be a very competitive pool and while I was hopeful we would get it (you never know),” said Holly Jones, director of alumni and parent relations. “And of course I was excited when we did.”

IW will use their portion of the $2,500 pool for two primary purposes — apparel and IW branded items for this year’s Homecoming and increased signage/banners on campus to increase the visibility of the Homecoming festivities.

IW Homecoming will be Oct. 20-21.

Airport Road Vineyard and Winery will use their grant money for a regional marketing campaign.

“They do fill a lot of hotel rooms with weddings and such,” Ray said of the winery. “A lot of people don’t consider that tourism, but people are coming in from out of town, going to Airport Road Winery and spending their money while they’re here in town.”

While looking over the 11 applications she received for the grant program, Ray said it struck her there were several businesses that applied that don’t generate overnight stays. “The next thing to figure out is how can we do some community grants that may not help the overnight stays, but they do bring exposure (to our community),” said Ray. “We love tourists that may not stay in our hotels, but they eat in our restaurants, they shop in our stores. I have to figure out how do we help the day tourists.”

As this was a pilot program this year, Ray says by November or December she can follow up with the award recipients to see how they used their grant money, how overnight stays increased and what can be done better next time. Ray said she also hopes to award the grant in January next year.

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