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Hooking tourism

Excitement builds as Switzerland County
finds its own tourism niche

 

 

(May 2007)

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Don Ward

If you have never seen anyone floating on Cloud 9, then you have never been to Vevay, Ind.
On April 26, Switzerland County Tourism officials David Attaway and Angie Satterfield were literally suspended in mid-air as they rejoiced in the news that Vevay was one of only three Indiana towns to receive more than $333,000 in grants and loans from a new statewide economic development program.
Indiana Office of Tourism Director Amy Vaughn and other state rural and housing development and officials arrived in town the next day to make the announcement on the Switzerland County Courthouse steps before a crowd of nearly 50 local residents and business owners. Many of them had taken part in the community wide effort to create a “Vision” for Switzerland County, and now they were witnessing some of the biggest fruits of their labor.
Attaway, the new tourism director, and Satterfield, coordinator of the strategy they call “A Vision for Switzerland County,” have been amazed, themselves, at the synergy that has been created in town and the speed at which things have fallen into place.
“This news is really rockin’; it’s great and the energy here is just incredible,” Satterfield said in her remarks at the podium. “The Visions project is a partnership of people who understand the true importance of collaboration, and building tourism in tomorrow’s world is all about collaboration.”
The event was the latest in a string of news coming out of the small, riverfront town in the past nine months since Attaway and Satterfield were hired to take over the reins of the county’s tourism and downtown renewal efforts. What began as a dream has since become a community-wide, collaborative initiative that involves residents, business owners, downtown building owners, developers, local nonprofit foundations and city and county government officials.
In other words, this is a project with everyone involved who has a stake in a community’s rebirth into a tourism destination. In just nine months since it began, their “Vision” has caught catching the attention of other communities across the state, including those in Indianapolis.
In fact, Attaway and Satterfield have been invited to present the model they have used at the upcoming Indiana Cultural Tourism Conference, planned for May 11 in Indianapolis. “It shows that when a community works together on all levels, they can really make things happen in a hurry, It’s a model that other communities need to take a look at,” said Vaughn.
Vevay was by far the smallest of the 10 Indiana towns that were hand-picked for consideration for this new pilot program, called the Real Estate Capital Access Program, or RECAP. It was jointly established by the Office of Indiana Tourism, the Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, and the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs. The idea was to merge tourism with affordable housing and economic development in an effort to redevelop main streets throughout rural Indiana. Logansport and Wabash also were selected to receive similar grants.
State officials only recently created the program and conducted site visits and interviews a month ago before making their selections. “There were several factors considered, but one big factor was finding a community with an ongoing project or project that was ready to go so the money could be quickly put to use so we can evaluate the success of it within the next 12-18 months,” said David Kaufmann, Police and Research Manager for the Housing and Community Development Authority. He was among the contingent of state officials in Vevay for the grant announcement.
Kaufmann said other contributing factors for selection were synergy, a vibrant tourism base, a strong Main Street program, solid leadership, the opportunity for development, and a commitment to housing and community development. He added that local developers and loan agents also were interviewed as part of the process to gauge the interest of investors in the local communities considered.
“Vevay was right there on all counts,” Kaufmann said.
Money for the grant came from state sources, including Local Initiatives Support Corp. and the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. The site teams that visited the 10 communities included a representative from each participating agency. Officials hope to apply for federal money to help expand the program in the future, Kaufmann said.
But for now, they want to wait and see how this pilot program develops before conducting another rounds of grants. So Vevay has been suddenly thrust into the spotlight and the clock is ticking. The pressure is on for the “Vision” to become a reality so that other communities can learn from it.
“We are just letting things take their course, and we are watching just like everyone else to see where it might lead,” Attaway said. “It’s amazing what can happen when everyone involved has a stake in it. It’s really exciting.”

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

 

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