Chesterton Tribune



Tourism board eyes giving tax dollars to for-profit businesses

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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.

PCCRVC Executive 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.

Applications will 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 counties.

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 sitting in.

Venues step up marketing

with tourism tax dollars

Meanwhile, the 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.

Lenckos said 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.

“We’re removing those barriers so more groups can hold their events,” said Lenckos.

PCCRVC Board 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.

Executive Director 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.”

Lisa Baisden, 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 said.

Performance report

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 year.

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 percent.

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.


Posted 8/28/2014




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