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The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
540-483-5113
Fax: 540-483-8013

Regional tourism alliance discussed
Charles Poindexter brings business owners, experts together
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Staff Photo by Stacey Hairston: Del. Charles Poindexter listens to Mary Wray, the owner of the Artisan Center, Basket Creations and More and Antiques and Collectibles of the Crooked Road, present ideas to promote tourism in Franklin County.

Monday, December 3, 2012

By STACEY HAIRSTON - Staff Writer

Del. Charles Poindexter (R-Glade Hill) brought together business owners and tourism experts from Franklin, Henry and Patrick counties Wednesday to discuss a regional approach to tourism.

"There has been a big push to focus on tourism in Virginia and locally, due to the downed economy and the loss of area jobs," said Alex Thorup, Poindexter's legislative aide.

The attendees discussed ways to increase economic development and attract more people to the region in hopes that the economy will receive a boost and more jobs will follow.

"It was a very positive meeting, which was beneficial in opening the lines of communication between the three counties," Poindexter said.

During the roundtable discussion at the Franklin County Government Center, Poindexter suggested the development of a regional tourism alliance in which the counties would meet regularly to discuss tourism options, including partnerships for grant funding and obstacles each county may face.

One suggestion from several members of the group involved the development of LOOP tours. The tours would include a map of tourist attractions in each of the three counties, so visitors could spend a couple of days in each county during a mini vacation, which are becoming more popular with the fledgling economy.

"More and more families are taking mini vacations in place of bigger trips," said Thorup, adding that this region is perfect with all of the attractions it has to offer.

For example, a LOOP tour could start at Smith Mountain Lake, then follow the Crooked Road to Patrick County with a stop at the Primland Resort, and continue into Henry County with visits to the Martinsville Speedway and that county's seven museums, Thorup explained.

Another focus of the discussion included obstacles to tourism, specifically the expense and timely process to obtain signage on the roadways to advertise attractions.

Poindexter said he would address their concerns with other legislators and state agencies to find a way to streamline the process.

Poindexter also discussed the importance of infrastructure, voicing his support for the completion of the Route 58 project and beginning work on the I-73 project, saying that he feels it is "very important for promoting economic development and tourism in the region."

Poindexter said that he was pleased with the turnout at the meeting and thought there was a balanced representation from all three counties in the 9th House District and a nice balance between local government organizations and private businesses.

"Tourism affects every aspect of the local economy because it brings dollars in," said Poindexter. "Tourists eat at our restaurants, fill their vehicles at our gas stations, and stay at our hotels and bed and breakfast establishments. Promoting tourism in this area is a vital component to our economic development."

Attending Wednesday's roundtable discussion were Katrina Amos, director of membership with VHTA; Tom Bishop, Patrick County Chamber of Commerce; Mara Bouvier, Primland Resort; Frank Chrzanow, vice president of Hometown Bank; Jennifer Doss, director of tourism for Martinsville-Henry County EDC's Tourism and Film Division; Darrin Doss, president of the Smith River Chapter Trout Unlimited; and Vicki Gardner, executive director of the Smith Mountain Lake Chamber of Commerce.

Also, Landon Howard, president of the Roanoke Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau; Joe Keiper, director of the Virginia Museum of Natural History; Roddy Moore, director of the Blue Ridge Institute and Museum at Ferrum College; Wilma Pendleton, economic development/tourism director for Patrick County; Tom Rose, Patrick County administrator; and Billy Russo, director of operations of the Smith River Sports Complex.

And, Phillip Sheridan, Franklin County Sesquicentennial chair; Denise Stirewalt with Patrick County tourism; Vaughn Webb with the Blue Ridge Institute; Debra Weir, tourism/special events coordinator for Franklin County; and Mary Wray, Franklin County business owner.

 
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