Roger Brooks has made a name for himself across the country, and the globe, for being able to provide solutions and suggestions to towns interested in improving themselves. He came to Marion County last week and was left with the impression that the county’s current tourism revenue of approximately $50 million could be tripled to $150 million.
Brooks believes this can be accomplished through a series of changes to each community’s approach to marketing. They include creating more of a “plaza” atmosphere in each downtown to encourage more openness and opportunities for pedestrian traffic and outdoor meeting. Making the outdoor areas of each downtown more visibly appealing, through plants, outdoor restaurant seating, etc., will encourage more people to come in. Drawing them downtown with entertainment – even if you pay an amateur street performer a fee to be coupled by tips – will also raise revenues, according to Brooks.
Achieving this, or making people aware of what Marion County has to offer begins with marketing. Brooks suggested a number of overused slogans and words be discontinued. Many of them are in use in Marion County area promotions.
“You’re not doing anything wrong, you’re just saying the same things,” Brooks said.
While Brooks was impressed with Pella, a community among 30 he will feature in an upcoming book about the best small towns in America, he felt that the town understated its Dutch heritage with the slogan “A Touch of Holland.”
He and his staff, before arriving in Pella, pictured a little bit of the town’s heritage could be seen. When he got to town, he was “blown away” at the amount of heritage the town showcases.
The Chambers of Commerce for Pella, Knoxville and Pleasantville each sponsored Brooks’ visit. He saw potential in the other two communities, but the positives he pointed out indicated that Pella should be the leader for the rest of the county to follow.