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Town may hire promoter to boost tourism

By Alex Bridges

NEW MARKET -- A new marketing position could help promote New Market, boost tourism and bring in more money, town officials say.

Town Council's Finance and Personnel Committee on Monday endorsed a proposal to create the marketing position and to increase the transient occupancy, or lodging tax, from 4 to 5 percent as recommended. The added tax revenue would cover the cost of the new position, Town Manager Evan Vass explained.

The effort comes years after the town invested local money into the Crossroads Project -- an initiative led by business owners in 2006 to revitalize downtown New Market through economic development. Crossroads eventually dissolved. The town also embarked on the creation of an economic development plan in 2009.

But the town has not had a person solely dedicated to promoting the town.

The panel voted to recommend that the full council authorize town staff to advertise the part-time position and to set a public hearing on the proposed increase in the lodging tax rate. The person in the position would work 20 hours a week.

Information from Vass shows that the town could expect to collect an additional $21,000 a year by increasing the lodging tax rate. The extra money would be dedicated to paying for the part-time position and its budget. Town Council would need to hold a public hearing on the proposed increase. Council could hold the hearing in November in time for the increase to take effect Jan. 1. The town could hire a person in the winter.

Councilman Charles Litten pointed out that many area communities have a full-time position to handle marketing and promotions. Litten lauded Woodstock and Strasburg for the marketing work conducted for those towns. Litten said the position not only would market the town but also would lead local organizations.

"I think that this is really what we've needed," Litten said. "I applaud the Chamber [of Commerce] in their efforts, that they've tried. But the bottom line is that, you know, it's hard to have someone who's fully dedicated to a job like this."

Vass said the person in the position would report to him as town manager and would help local organizations. Town Council still makes the policies, Vass said.

Vass noted that with Crossroads the Town Council asked a nonprofit board to manage an individual in charge of promotions and marketing.

"In this particular scenario you do have a more definitive hierarchy, which is a town manager, a Town Council. You get to set the agendas as to where they go," Vass said. "But the key I think to this, in addition to personality, is going to be community buy-in."

The person's role as coordinator would help the groups but they still need to participate, Vass said.

"This person can't exist in a vacuum," Vass said. "It's going to take those willing to volunteer. I think you're taking the burden off of certain organizations when planning some of these larger events, which is where there seems to maybe have been some issues, taking that burden away. But they're still going to require those folks to come out and volunteer, and hopefully they will."

Councilman John Blosser said the town needs someone to help coordinate the efforts of the community organizations.

Vass reminded council the position would promote activities held throughout New Market, not just its downtown.

"It's to be seen whether someone's available," Litten added.

Applicants likely would come from recent college graduates or retirees or people reentering the workforce, Vass said.

"But it is going to take a particular personality," Vass said.

Councilwoman Peggy Harkness said she supported the creation of the position. Harkness added that the town has needed the position for some time.

"I think the time is right now that we have streetscape in place," Harkness said, referring to the town's streetscape project.

Possible job titles include business development coordinator, downtown enhancement coordinator or events and marketing director. Information provided by Vass on the conceptual idea for the position shows a pay range of $13-$20 per hour depending on qualifications and experience.

Duties would include working with the existing business community to enhance its market presence and coordinating with tourism, marketing and promotional programs and agencies to strengthen a sense of community by enhancing and creating various seasonal community events. The employee also would work to recruit and retain a group of volunteers to help with events. The person would develop marketing material and prepare reports and presentations to the town manager and/or council.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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