The Porter County
Convention, Recreation and Visitor Commission is expanding the grant program
funded through the innkeepers tax. This year, the grants will no longer be
limited to community non-profit groups. For-profit businesses in the private
sector can also apply.
Director Lorelei Weimer and Operations Director Patti Boyer said someone
asked why not let private businesses apply if they are able to hold an event
that can attract out-of-county visitors.
Weimer said she
agreed “it doesn’t make sense” and the Grant Committee made up of PCCRVC
board members agreed that those businesses can submit applications which be
available on Indiana Dunes Tourism’s website next Monday.
be accepted from Sept. 1 through Oct. 15, Boyer said. The bureau has $50,000
available for grants in 2015.
In addition, there
will be new categories of grants that applicants can go for. The bureau has
added product development to its lineup and as of last year included an
application for sporting events, tying in with the creation of a county
“sports cabinet.” Three other categories are festivals and events;
conferences, meetings and seminars; and marketing.
Weimer said the
grant committee is keeping its three-year limit for eligibility.
Organizations the first year can request up to $5,000, the second year up to
$3,000 and the third year up to $1,500.
The grants are
awarded to match funds spent promoting events such as for brochures,
websites, and advertising. Applicants must tell how their event will draw
visitors from outside the “tri-county” area of Porter, Lake and LaPorte
Boyer said she will
help the committee sort through the applications and the grantees will be
announced during the November meeting of the PCCRVC board.
On the grant
committee this year are board members Richard Riley, Scott Tuft and Judy
Chaplin, with Weimer, Boyer and Assistant Director Christine Livingston
Venues step up
with tourism tax
PCCRVC board heard at its meeting last week its money is being well spent by
the County venues it supports yearly with $89,100 of innkeepers tax.
Porter County Parks
and Recreation receives the biggest share of the allotment with 40 percent,
or $35,640, going to its programming. The remaining 60 percent is shared
three ways between the Expo Center, the County Museum and the Memorial Opera
House, each receiving $17,820.
At the meeting,
Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said his departments have increased
outreach and marketing by hosting more events at Sunset Hill Farm, giving as
examples the Lightning Bug Festival benefit for the Duneland Learning Center
and the Party in the Park 24 hour run, which attracted visitors from as far
away as Georgia.
rentals at Sunset Hill Farm totaled 33 in 2012. It reached 58 in 2013 and so
far 52 for 2014, with a record in reach.
those barriers so more groups can hold their events,” said Lenckos.
attorney David Hollenbeck said Lenckos brings the “perfect balance of vision
and funding” to increase the park’s success. Hollenbeck is also the attorney
for the County Park Board.
“It’s moving closer
to what (former resident) Colonel Murray wanted it to look like. It’s the
preferred venue for cross-county events in Northwest Indiana,” Hollenbeck
told the PCCRVC board.
for the Porter County Museum Kevin Pazour said his venue has seen many
changes since 2012, which have brought it much attention.
In 2013, the museum
was given the Indiana Historical Society’s Outstanding Event or Project
award and most recently was awarded the 2014 Excellence in Historic
Preservation Awareness and Education Award from Indiana Landmarks for its
Neighborhood Stories exhibit.
“We’re sending out
vibes not only in Porter County, but beyond,” Pazour said. “What you give us
brings people in.”
administrative assistant for the Expo Center, said the facility has seen
three changes in directors since 2012, each with a different style. The Expo
Center is now retooling its marketing plan with a greater emphasis on social
media, she said.
With the new plan,
the Expo staff hopes to expand its schedule of events to generate more
overnight visits, to pump outside dollars into the local economy, Baisden
In another matter,
Weimer also gave the PCCRVC board a bird eye’s view of the bureau’s
performance measurements for the second quarter of 2014, compared with last
Weimer said the
number of page views on the IDT website has doubled and so have the number
of pages per visit. Page views for Beyond the Beach alone were up 223
The Facebook page
saw a 32 percent rise in average daily engaged users.
Press coverage has
boomed this year by 36 percent, with readership up by 129 percent.
At the Visitor
Center, a two percent decrease was seen in the number of visitors compared
to Quarter 2 in 2013. Business calls dipped by 27 percent while info calls
to the center jumped by 39 percent.