CVB executive director says events are crucial economic generators for Adairsville

Archer talks tourism plans in north Bartow

Posted

This time of year, the Cartersville-Bartow County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) usually has its comprehensive economic report completed.

However, the state's economic development department required a little bit more time to prepare 2018's document. So rather than wheel out the CVB's numbers from 2016 — in which tourists spent about $169 million in Bartow County, with hotel rentals alone generating about $48 million — again, CVB Executive Director Ellen Archer decided to narrow down the focus of Thursday's monthly Eggs and Issues meeting to focus on the state of tourism in Adairsville instead.

It was a rather fitting topic, she said, considering the Cartersville-Bartow County Chamber of Commerce event took place at NorthPointe Church on Orchard Road.

"People think of special events, etcetera, etcetera," Archer said at the presentation. "But it's not really to entertain people. It's really to bring people."

While the cordoned off streets and blocked parking spaces might be an inconvenience for some business owners, Archer said they should nonetheless feel optimistic about events like the Great Locomotive Chase Festival and the Adairsville Celebrates America festivities.

After all, they're letting people from outside the community know Adairsville — and by proxy, their businesses — exist.

"It lets people know that your store is there, that your town is there and there's more than meets the eye when you zoom past on I-75," she said. 

The traffic for the CVB's Adairsville website, Archer said, bears out that thesis.

What are people searching for when they look up Adairsville online? As Archer put it, "events, events, events."

So far this year, she said the site has received 5,410 visitors — representing a 291 percent increase in traffic over 2017's numbers.

While about half of searches inquired about general information on Adairsville, hits for annual events like the Great Locomotive Chase Festival, the Christmas on the Square festivities and the Society Hill Tour of Homes accounted for a good 40 percent of the site's traffic.

Which makes the job of Bethany Brady — the CVB's new Adairsville/North Bartow marketing and events coordinator — even more important.

Previously, she served as assistant director of admissions at Shorter University in Rome and as an office staffer at The Rock Fitness Center in Adairsville.

"I have started grabbing hold of the social media," Brady said after being introduced by Archer. "The biggest thing I've done so far is I've created a Snapchat filter for the festivals, so I hope everybody uses it."

The position, Archer said, is "primarily supplemented" by the City of Adairsville.

"On a daily basis, she's reporting to [Adairsville City Manager] Pam Madison's office here in city hall," she said. 

Although Archer didn't give specifics on the financials of some of the private sector tourism generators in north Bartow — namely, Barnsley Resort — she nonetheless said that particular destination is making quite a bit off its recent investments in a 10,000-square-foot event space and 55-key hotel.

"I do get the tax receipts, and they are healthy," Archer said. "It's just putting more money into Bartow County's coffers."

She said another big north Bartow event — the Georgia Steeplechase — is on track for a second running on April 6, 2019.

"They have a year-to-year lease — it's not like the Atlanta Steeplechase that had an extended year lease," she said. "It's still in its infancy — of course, we support it and we would like to see it grow. It is, I think, an important event for our area."

She also touched upon the prospects of increased film and television production in north Bartow. She brought up something she calls the "30-mile rule" — the notion that production companies are hesitant to travel beyond 30 miles of a specified metro area due to increased union labor costs. 

The problem, she said, is that while the southern half of Bartow fits snugly in just such a radius, the northern section of the county is just outside Hollywood's economic comfort zone.

"There was a bill proposed last year that would increase the tax incentive for productions that go outside that 30-mile range," she said.

And getting that passed, she said, could be a big economic generator, seeing as how for the average production, "you'll have about 200 people coming in for about anything."

But tax incentives or not, the cameras nonetheless could be coming to Adairsville. In fact, Madison said there's at least one major production rolling into town this week.

"They'll be mobilizing, probably, on Sunday and start filming on [Oct. 8] and they should be filming all day," she said.

The location of the shoot, she said, is at the old Adairsville Elementary School and baseball field along Hall Station Road. 

While the crew has been mum on what the production is, Madison said she believes the movie being filmed is "Doctor Sleep" — a sequel to Stephen King's "The Shining" starring Ewan McGregor in the lead role.

Archer concluded her presentation with an update on the plans to construct a 117-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel next to the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville — which she said is roughly a month away from construction. 

"The concrete will be moving on Nov. 5," she said. "It should be open in early 2020."