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How will Warren County go about implementing the 15 action items...

April 9, 2008
Times Observer
How will Warren County go about implementing the 15 action items outlined by PLACES' strategic plan to grow the county's tourism industry. According to Diane Shawley, director of the Warren County Vacation Bureau (WCVB), she will be responsible for selecting which of the action items to move forward with in the near future. The WCVB played the lead role in administering a $100,000 state grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development to complete a tourism study and strategic plan for Warren County. Shawley said she will also be responsible for putting committees together for each action item the county implements. In the final report of his three-part study, PLACES director Gary Esolen outlined in detail 15 initiatives he believe will help Warren County successfully build its historically weak tourism economy. 'There will be no silver bullet, not single project or course of action that can reverse this cycle of failure and produce significant economic development through tourism,' Esolen wrote. 'Instead, it will be necessary for Warren County to alleviate limiting conditions and build tourism by parallel action in several different arenas, producing incremental change which becomes in time a self-reinforcing cycle of success.' Esolen went on to outline five major areas that need to be dealt with in order to break the county's 'spiral of failure' in tourism and kick-start a 'cycle of success: (*) Alleviate limiting conditions (*) Develop the active outdoor vacation segment (*) Develop the touring vacation segment (*) Develop the second home and retirement home market (*) Build a first-rate, state-of-the-art Internet site as the center of Warren County tourism development and marketing. To accomplish those goals, Esolen offered the following 15 initiatives to be implemented: (*) Form an ANF Task Force (*) Form a Long-Range ANF Policy Task Force (*) Develop signage in the county (*) Map and improve Internet information about the county (*) Promote a second home market (*) Create or support 12 events designed for visitors (*) Waterfront access and development (*) Advance the city and county's Main Street programs (*) Create celebratory entrances (*) Promote entrepreneurship (*) Increase broadband and cell phone connectivity (*) Improve Visitors' Center with 24-hour access (*) Create a joint marketing effort with New York (*) Increase popular support of tourism (*) Create sustainable tourism via Geotourism Charter Out of those 15 initiatives, Shawley suggests the county considering pursuing seven. Signage. Develop wayfinding and interpretive signs to enhance the visitor experience in Warren County. Within 18 months of implementing this strategy, the group tasked with the project will identify locations for visitor entrances to towns and erect signs. Scenic drives will be identified and signs developed to support those drives. Interpretive signing will be designed and locations selected, including a significant installation at United Refining. The county signage group would work under the direction of the Pennsylvania Wilds planning group. The group should include historians, botanist/biologists, parks and ANF officials, planners and tourism officials. Celebratory entrances. Designed to set the county's towns apart from the ordinary, Esolen envisions local communities each having a celebratory entrance within 18 months of implementation. The leadership for this group would be provided by the WCVB and local artists, and will locate property, create designs and find funding. Entrepreneurship. Designed to create more tourist related service businesses in Warren County. Within 18 months of implementation, 10 of the initially identified business niches will be operating profitably. The group, made up of WCVB, Chamber of Commerce, planners, special interest outdoor representatives, community education and a second home group, will identify the needs of visitors, opportunities for residents to set up businesses and provide various support for business development. Connectivity. Make Warren County a fully connected destination with casual Internet access, cell phone coverage and broadband connectivity for the second home market. Leadership of this group will include the Warren County Commissioners, consultants, telecom providers, WCVB and Main Street and Chamber officials. The project would include promote Wi-Fi hot spots in the county. Visitor's Center. Create 24-hour access to the Warren County Visitor's Center and provide Interent availability. Daytime services will include a cafe-style vendor. Leadership for this committee will be the WCVB and the commissioners. Popular support. Increase awareness of the powerful impact of tourism growth among the public, businesses and elected officials. The committee will include Warren County tourism officials, media, Chamber of Commerce executives, educational providers and the second home group. Geotourism. Have the Warren County commissioners and munipipal governments adopt the Geotourism Charter within 18 months. Within three years, plans for tourism growth are being executed according to the values expressed in the charter. Every initiative undertaken in tourism development in the county will refer to the goals of the charter for guidance, making it a blueprint. According to Shawley, once a final decision is made on exactly how many of the initiatives to move forward with, she will begin setting up committees. 'We will develop partnerships, of course,' Shawley said. 'We will need four or five dedicated invidiuals (for each committee). Here comes the hard part: (Esolen) doesn't want.


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