Two of Henry County’s biggest cheerleaders will soon be on the same team.

Thursday morning, members of the New Castle-Henry County Economic Development Corp. Board approved the concept of merging with the local Convention and Visitors Bureau. The action came after an intensive 21-month study.

“We’ve been dealing with this for some time,” CVB Cole continued. “We feel like this is best for Henry County. I’d like to thank everyone, all the volunteers who helped us. I know their heart has been in the right place. Hopefully this is a big step forward and be beneficial to everybody.”

EDC President Corey Murphy said the merger is important for many reasons.

“There is a lot of opportunity within this sector in our county, and I’m excited,” Murphy said.

Murphy outlined key points of the upcoming merger:

The EDC will establish a dedicated Marketing and Tourism line item in its budget/accounting system;

The Henry County Convention and Visitors Bureau will transfer the deed of its current welcome center on Ind. 3 south to the EDC. In turn, the EDC will coordinate listing, marketing and sale of the building. All proceeds will go to the marketing and tourism line item.

The EDC will begin negotiation of a contract with the tourism commission.

The Tourism Advisory Committee (TAC) will have three-year terms for all current HCCVB board members. The EDC will ask some of its board members and others to join the TAC, which will meet monthly on the week before the EDC Executive Committee.

There are no guaranteed seats for any industry on the executive committee. Officers are elected annually.

“We’re not going to add a staff member to the EDC to do this work,” Murphy said. “We’re going to rely on the existing capacity within the office. We will utilize outside vendors, 1099 contracts, particularly in terms of marketing, very similar to what Wholeheart Communications does for the EDC now. We’ll be looking to them to help us create content and then the first big lift will be a new website, a new mobile responsive website promoting Henry County tourism.”

The Tourism Advisory Committee would have an opportunity to review website changes, Murphy said.

Darrin Jacobs said a separate line item would be created on the EDC budget for tourism.

“We’ll begin conversations with the tourism commission,” Murphy said. “The president of the tourism commission is Jake Smith and he’s been involved with the CVB all along. But there are six other members of the tourism commission that need to be brought up to speed.

“The tourism commission is a function of state statute,” Murphy added. “It was created by local ordinance. It is the entity that collects the innkeeper’s tax. The innkeeper’s tax is 5 percent. That would be the primary source of funding for the tourism effort. My goal would be to bring a contract back to this board either in October or November.”

The Henry County Convention and Visitors Bureau has been active in promoting the area for many years, particularly in the 1990s when “Mayberry In the Midwest” festivals brought the Andy Griffith-inspired characters to town three years in a row, along with many, many visitors.

But the downturn in local hotel business has hindered the CVB’s ability to do those kinds of things in recent years.

“The visitor’s board has done a great job the past few years,” Cole said. “It just got to a point to where we just didn’t have the revenue. We didn’t have a marketing director or a business manager for the office. It was all run by volunteers.”

Murphy said he hopes to bring back an official contract for the merger at either an October or November meeting.
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