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Community wide marketing plan
has produced results, enthusiasm

Officials meet frequently
to pursue Žinterpretive' tourism goals

By Don Ward
Editor

MADISON, Ind. • Representatives from various organizations and businesses have been meeting monthly as part of ongoing efforts to develop and implement a community wide marketing plan for Madison and Jefferson County, Ind. And from all indications, progress is being made on many fronts, according to Ann Grahn, who heads the effort as the leader of the Jefferson County Collaborative Marketing Project.

John Veverka

John Veverka

The overall effort is part of a push to implement the county's economic development blueprint. Besides economic development, it involves areas such as historic preservation, tourism, local government and environmental management.
Generally, the effort has focused on building a consensus on the community's future direction, working with local government on zoning and ordinance issues, retaining and expanding desirable industries, attracting new businesses and industries, preserving and enhancing tourism, and measuring the success of the overall plan.
In recent months, such efforts have produced a vision that may ultimately have a dramatic impact on the area, both in image and substance. Grahn and others have certainly mined all aspects of the community for support. More than 60 businesses, organizations and agencies have indicated their support of the initiative.
The aspect of the plan involving tourism calls for boosting marketing efforts and creating the right image for the community through signs, literature and other activities. This aspect of the plan is called the Community Interpretive Plan. It focuses primarily on "heritage tourism" and has its roots in diverse corners of Madison, Hanover and throughout the county.
Independent consultant John Veverka of Laingsburg, Mich., was retained last summer to study the area's potential and needs and develop recommendations for enhancing a visitor's tourism experience by focusing specifically on heritage tourism. In Madison's case, heritage tourism would encompass history, architecture of the period, the Underground Railroad and riverboat history along the Ohio River.
"I was amazed at just how much the area has to offer in the way of historical sites," Veverka said in a Nov.  21 telephone interview. "I found 30 to 40 heritage sites in the Madison and Jefferson County area, all of which offer great potential in preparing a powerful marketing strategy."
"It's a marvelous opportunity to bring the entire community together," said, Walt Morrill, special projects director at Hanover College who has worked closely with Grahn in the effort.
"It's very impressive to sit down at a table with all these people representing all facets of the community and everyone working together in one joint effort," Morrill said. "The college is already using the Collaborative Marketing Logo on our materials, and we use every opportunity to promote Madison and Hanover to our parents and alumni."
Historic Madison Inc. has also been involved in the process from early on. When asked in February 1999 to identify the most important needs of Madison's heritage tourism industry, HMI submitted two proposals: develop an interpretive master plan for the community, and improve the existing East-West Walking Tour Guide. As a result of Veverka's visit, HMI is busy working on the walking tour guide as part of the organization's contribution to the project.
"John Veverka has produced for the heritage tourism industry in Madison and Jefferson County a Community Interpretive Plan with solid directives on how our many diverse organizations can pull together to create a more interesting and educational experience for our many visitors," said HMI president John Galvin.
"But the success of his plan will be dependent upon the willingness of each of the involved organizations to "But the success of his plan will be dependent upon the willingness of each of the involved organizations to implement his suggestions and guidelines.
Galvin recognized that many efforts already are under way and predicted that "the community should experience an increase in tourism over the next several years" because of it.
The Collaborative Marketing Project, financed by grants from the Lilly Foundation and several local government agencies, is now focused on sorting and implementing many of the recommendations found in Veverka's study. Specifically, these initiatives include:
* Designing new road signs and billboards with a desired image for use in directing visitors to Jefferson County from major entry points both in and outside the county. A sub-committee has recommended placing a billboard on I-65 south of Seymour, heading south, and on I-71 in Kentucky between Cincinnati and the Kentucky Speedway, heading west. A competition was held to decide on a design for road signs to be created and placed at community entry points.
* Purchasing new business resource books for the Small Business Development Center's library at the Venture Out Business Center to help educate business owners on properly conducting market research for the businesses.
* Obtaining new slides and photos for use by agencies in marketing the area.
* Planning of a spring workshop to train participants ö docents, interpreters and those on the front lines with visitors ö in interpretive and hospitality skills. 
* Designing and producing a Heritage Walking Tour brochure and booklet on the area.
* Producing a traveling exhibit for use in promoting the area at trade shows.
* Hiring a marketing director for the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to lead tourism efforts related to the comprehensive plan. Madison native Susie Hamner was hired in November (see related story, page 9).
* Creating a consolidated Internet website for the Collaborative Marketing Project, www.madison-indiana.org, to serve as the county's official site, with links to various other entities.
* Applying for additional grants to pursue these and other projects.
The group also has discussed the idea of offering public tours or viewing platforms of the Indiana-Kentucky Electric Corp.'s power plant in Madison and possibly other local industrial sites.
Linda Lytle, executive director of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, has worked closely with Veverka during his visits and says he has effectively highlighted ways to better present the area's attractions to visitors so that they stay longer.
"His ideas were excellent," Lytle said. "And the marketing plan he came up with fits in with things I pick up at statewide tourism meetings, so he's right on target."
Lytle said it will take a while for some of the recommendations to be implemented, but that at a November meeting of committee members, she was surprised to learn that many had already been implemented at various levels. "Our goal is to get everybody telling the same story about what Madison has to offer, whether it be interpretive people at the historic sites, volunteers at the visitors center or the people on the front lines at hotels and gas stations."
To help educate them, she is helping Jim Lee organize a March 2001 interpretive workshop at which Veverka is scheduled to appear. The idea is to hold the meeting prior to the tourism season, which begins in April, and before the tourism office's move to a new location on First Street, now set for October.
Veverka has kept up with the progress via monthly emails. He said he been impressed "with the diligence the group has shown in pursuing this project. It's unusual to see that kind of enthusiasm and vigor. And I think Madison will benefit from it because they've got a good number of people pushing for it."
Veverka cited several challenges facing the Jefferson County group. These include downtown parking, directing tourists to the future location of the tourism office next to the Lanier Mansion State Historic Site, providing public restrooms in the downtown area, and coming up with ways to generate more visitor traffic on weekdays.
"With a good strategy, Madison can provide good customer care," Veverka said. "You just need to get the right infrastructure into place, and this group seems to be doing just that."

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