Critical Time

Madison tourism board, new mayor
face opportune year to promote city

Bridge project provides extra money
to help in tourism marketing

(February 2012)
Read previous Don Ward columns!
Don Ward

A new tourism logo for the city, a new marketing campaign with an additional $50,000 to spend on advertising, three large festivals to conduct and some new events and activities to plan – these items should keep the Madison tourism office busy in 2012, according to the discussions that took place at the Jan. 30 VisitMadison Inc. board meeting and half-day annual strategic planning retreat. These would be challenging missions for an experienced team, but this year they will present an added challenge for a new wave of leadership coming into office.
The one-time influx of dollars totaling $205,000 are being provided from the Milton-Madison Bridge Mitigation funds for the city to use over two years to help offset any negative impact from the bridge construction project. The tourism board will be able to supplement its planned $70,000 advertising effort with this additional $50,000 this year and also use it to market the bridge re-opening, now projected to be in early 2013.
A new marketing logo that was to be unveiled two days later at the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Dinner was discussed as the first step in the challenging year ahead of promoting Madison in the coming year.
Using Indiana Rural Development “Downtown Enhancement” grant money totaling $20,000 awarded to Madison Main Street Program and matching funds from various local government and nonprofit agencies, Seattle-based consultant Roger Brooks was hired in 2008 for $50,000 to do a branding study for Madison. The all-volunteer Brand Leadership Team, which represents downtown merchants and various organizations, has been implementing many of the ideas from that study. With mitigation funds, the city was able to hire firms to create the new city logo and prepare a public relations-advertising strategic plan.     

New Sign

Photo by Don Ward

New tourism
directional signs went
up around Madison, Ind.,
on Jan. 24 displaying
the new logo.

RLR Associates Inc. of Indianapolis created the logo, which appeared on newly erected directional signs mounted throughout the city in late January. The logo will be rolled out gradually through the spring. Hirons & Co., also of Indianapolis, produced the public relations and advertising plan, which emphasizes marketing to a 50-mile region of Madison. 
But now a new challenge has emerged for moving forward with these tourism plans in 2012 in the wake of the city’s election of a new mayor at such a critical juncture.
The Branding Leadership Team, comprised of 14 people representing the retail community, government and nonprofit agencies, directed the effort to develop the brand. It had been led by former Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong’s Community Development assistant, Jenny Eggenspiller. Meanwhile, a Bridge Mitigation Committee had been meeting monthly to manage the money provided to the city from the bridge project. Armstrong’s appointee, Jan Vetrhus, had been leading that committee to ensure proper use and accountability of those funds, as required by the Indiana Department of Transportation and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. The rest of the committee represents the organizations as spelled out in the formal Bridge Mitigation “Memorandum of Agreement.”
But now, only a few weeks in office, newly elected Mayor Damon Welch and his Community Development, assistant Andrew Forrester, say they are still getting their footing and being briefed on these important initiatives. They requested more time to study the initiatives before being interviewed about them.
Vetrhus briefed the mayor Jan. 25, and Welch took part in unveiling the new logo at the chamber dinner that same evening at Hanover College. Vetrhus said she was no longer serving as the chair but would remain on the bridge mitigation committee as the representative from Cornerstone Society. Eggenspiller, meanwhile, has stepped off the Branding Leadership Team since she is no longer a city employee.
It will now be up to the city’s new administration on how to move forward and who will lead them. Forrester, 22, and a recent graduate from Wabash College, took over in what had been Eggenspiller’s role at City Hall. He sat in on the tourism board meeting and strategic planning session as the mayor’s new appointment to that board. He will also serve on the Branding Leadership Team, replacing Eggenspiller.    
In addition to the heritage tourism and promotional marketing money, INDOT and KYTC have provided additional mitigation funds. This includes $80,000 for the Madison Main Street Program to hire a part time director, Beth Black, and assist downtown merchants with advertising and training; $40,000 for the town of Milton, Ky.; and $80,000 for the city to hire the Historic Preservation Planner, Camille Fife, for two years. Her role is to seek and apply for grants and other assistance to help improve the city’s historic district.
But the mayor’s office is not the only place where transition is taking place. The tourism board itself is getting three new volunteer board members, two of which who had not yet been named by the time of the late January strategic planning session. Getting these three of nine board members up to speed should also present a challenge, especially since they will not even attend their first meeting until late February.
In addition to the newly appointed Forrester, the tourism board is waiting for a new appointment from Madison City Council to replace Bob Schoenstein, who retired from the council last year. Karen Hinton, who serves on both the tourism board and as treasurer of the Jefferson County Board of Tourism, has asked the latter board to select someone to replace her for 2012. She did not attend the strategic planning session. Forrester did attend the tourism meeting and was voted to serve as its secretary-treasurer for 2012.
Joe Carr, executive director of the Jefferson County Historical Society, is also new this year to the tourism board, replacing outgoing board president John Staicer of Historic Madison Inc. as the representative from historic sites. Carr has served on this board before so he is not entirely new to it.
Other returning board members, along with newly appointed offices and their appointing agencies, are: Renie Stephens (voted 2012 board president), Holiday Inn Express, (representing Jefferson County Board of Tourism); Nathan Montoya (voted 2012 board vice president), Village Lights Bookstore, (At Large representing retailers); Joe Craig, Craig Auto (representing the Jefferson County Council); Kevin Watkins, The Pets Doc (representing the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce); and Peter Woodburn, Woodburn, Kyle & Co. (representing Economic Development Partners of Jefferson County). Woodburn was also unable to attend the strategic planning session.
Prior to the strategic planning session, the tourism board held its regular monthly meeting during which it elected new officers, approved its 2012 budget and discussed various new activities planned for the coming year. They are also considering taking on an ambitious project to hire a Tennessee company to produce a coffee-table type hardbound book about Madison that the tourism office would then sell the public in hopes of turning a profit. The biggest challenge is coming up with about $120,000 up front to produce book. Meetings have been scheduled with the publisher to further explore the venture.
Lytle began the strategic planning session with her board noting that the bridge project inadvertently left out of the strategic plan. There was no discussion about impacts from the bridge project during either the regular tourism board meeting or the strategic planning session until it was learned late in the meeting that the first bridge closure had been set for April 25-29, just a few weeks away (see related bridge closure story, Page x). Lytle said it was not the tourism office’s role to advertise the bridge closures, and that she had been assured that the two planned five-day bridge closures would not occur during the city’s major festivals.
But the bridge closure will affect some events scheduled for that weekend. Montoya said he was planning an inaugural poetry conference at this bookstore that weekend and would definitely be affected by the closure, since the poet laureates of both Indiana and Kentucky are scheduled to appear. The Madison Main Street Program, meanwhile, is kicking off its first “Fourth Friday” event of the 2012 season on April 27 and is to include a new Fabric Show and kickoff of their “Buy Local” campaign. Lanthier Winery also has workshops, wine tastings and its annual plant giveaway scheduled for April 28-29.
With so much going on in 2012, so much money available, and so many new faces coming in to guide the city administration and tourism board through this unusual year, it will critical that these new leaders get on board quickly to make the most of this one-time marketing opportunity for Madison.

• Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.


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