Tribune-Courier News Reporter
Many would argue Marshall County is home to some of some of the most bountiful natural scenery and leisure opportunities to be found anywhere.
World-class fishing and boating opportunities and countless venues for family-oriented entertainment serve to make tourism a $114 million a year industry for the county.
But Randy Newcomb, Executive Director of the Marshall County Tourist Commission, doesn’t believe the county is fully positioned to be as effective as it could be to attract tourists and their dollars to the area.
Last week Newcomb approached members of the Fiscal Court to ask for financial support to embark on a re-branding effort to help him and others pinpoint a clearer identity to be used in marketing efforts.
“Until we find out who we are as a county and I can effectively market who we are, I’m basically marketing a 186-mile (shoreline) where only the top 30 or 40 miles of it is in our area,” he said.
He said marketing an attraction that isn’t the county’s isn’t a wise way to spend advertising dollars. He said it’s not bringing in the most amount of visitors the county could be bringing in if it had a clearer identity.
Newcomb said a re-branding process is something the county needs whether three organizations join in on the effort or 10.
“Right now, Marshall County is six distinctive areas,” he said. “We’re not seen as one cohesive unit. We’re seen as Hardin, Aurora, Calvert, Benton, Draffenville and the lakes area.”
He said from a tourism standpoint, when a visitor comes to the area they see the differences between each area, not the cooperation between them.
A remedy to the problem, which affects more than just tourism, but industry as well, he said, is to re-brand the county.
The tourism commission and the Marshall County Chamber of Commerce have begun researching how a re-branding process would work for Marshall County and have heard from two companies that are being considered for the process.
“The companies we have heard from are Northstar Destinations and ChandlerThinks,” he said. “Until we have signed a contract with one, we aren’t going to reveal our choice.”
Newcomb explained to the court that the research required to undertake a re-branding process is what these companies could offer the county.
The fiscal court agreed unanimously that the county wasn’t seen as one unit and that a re-branding process would be necessary to market the county more effectively to potential visitors.
The pricetag for the market research is $52,250, plus an additional amount of up to $3,500 for travel expenses.
Newcomb said the payment for service is due in three installments.
“The first is due at the contract signing, the second will be due halfway through the process and the final payment would be due at the end of the process approximately 10 months to a year from now,” he said. “So we’d all be able to split it over two fiscal years.”
The fiscal court agreed to pay one-third of the initial payment – $18,000 – once the contract was signed. It approved a payment of $6,000.
While the fiscal court has already made a decision to support the re-branding process, the tourist commission and chamber have not yet taken an official vote. Newcomb said those votes will take place at upcoming meetings.
“Right now Marshall County has no identity whatsoever outside of Marshall County,” he said. “In fact, our identity inside of Marshall County – if you ask 20 different people what it was – it would be 20 different answers.”
Newcomb said Bowling Green and Grand Rivers completed similar re-branding efforts in the past and as a result have increased their effectiveness in reaching potential visitors.
“I see this as a way we can bridge the gap between all of our local entities, because there isn’t a lot of working together that is seen from all the cities and counties in the surrounding areas,” he said.
Newcomb said he has also spoken with representatives from Hardin, Calvert City, Benton, Benton Main Street and the Calvert Area Development Association about the process. He said each seems to be supportive of the process.
“I do believe that we will get support from the entire community,” he said. “this project will be beneficial to everyone in Marshall County.”
Newcomb said he was optimistic that a contract can be signed in December, with the study beginning in January and lasting 10 to 12 months.
“One of the best things that this will do is get us moving forward,” he said. “Honestly, right now we’re not moving forward and this is that one thing that can get us going in the right direction.”