The Hanover Association of Businesses and Chamber of Commerce launched Hanover Tourism Supporters last year.
The group of business and civic leaders are developing strategies to maximize Hanover County’s tourism potential.
The HABCC started things off, but Hanover Tourism Supporters is now an independent entity. However, leaders of the group visited the HABCC’s breakfast meeting Tuesday to provide an update.
Dave Fuller of Mechanicsville and Del. Chris Peace, who represents eastern Hanover in the House of Delegates, discussed the group’s progress and the virtues of tourism.
“Every time we turn around, people say we have so much potential—we can really be something great. If that were the case, which I believe it is, we should be living in it now because we’ve been talking about it for so long,” Peace said.
“I think the potential is right now, and we should seize the opportunity to position Hanover in a bigger picture. We have a lot to offer people. Your businesses have a lot to offer people,” he continued.
Peace said that every dollar invested in tourism marketing generates $5 in state and local tax revenue.
“It’s better to have people come in here and invest in our county and stimulate growth and generate the revenues to state and local government than it is for the government to raise revenues in other ways,” Peace said.
“This is an entire community effort,” Fuller said, referring to Hanover County, the Town of Ashland, and local businesses.
“You have a business that is part of tourism, and I don’t say that lightly,” he told the HABCC members.
Fuller said the number one reason people travel is to visit family and friends. Then the question becomes, “What do you do with family and friends when they show up?”
Hanover Tourism Supporters has partnered with the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, an organization that promotes tourism throughout the region. The bureau creates short videos targeted to different audiences, as well as other marketing tools.
“We’ve increased the presence of Hanover County in all of that material. We have moved now into second place with every hit that comes into the website for the Richmond Convention and Visitors Bureau for Hanover County,” Fuller said.
“That means when people are looking online for ‘What can I do in the Richmond area?’ Hanover County is getting the second highest number of hits,” he explained.
Peace and Fuller both discussed how the film industry has benefited the area.
The film industry’s total economic impact in Virginia in 2011 was $394 million, Peace said, and a 14.5 percent increase over 2010. The number of jobs attributed to the film industry increased from 2,600 in 2010 to 3,800 in 2011.
Fuller mentioned the Virginia Film Office, specifically its Virginia film catalogue, in which local businesses can list services or materials they could provide to a film production.
Several years ago, the HBO miniseries “John Adams” was filming in Virginia, and the producers were looking for a place to build an indoor soundstage near some of their other locations.
“Hanover County just happened to have around 300,000 square feet of empty space. What a deal,” Fuller said.
The production set up shop in the AMF facility in Mechanicsville, and it acquired many of its materials from local businesses and individuals.
“They don’t bring with them everything they need to make an HBO special. They buy it or rent it, find it, build it. What is it? Everything you can think of,” Fuller said.
He listed a few examples. They needed mulch to make the ground look like an old road. They needed to rent horses, and because they were using horses, they were required to have a veterinarian on-site.
“The question was asked of me, ‘Do you know any vets in the area?’” Fuller recalled.
He added, “Can you imagine being part of a movie set and getting a check from a production company in Hollywood, California, in bucolic Hanover County?”
Fuller explained that these production companies look in the Virginia film catalogue to find electricians who can work on a set, housepainters who can paint the facades, architects who can design those facades, gardeners who can bring some authenticity to the landscaping, and more.
“Every business affects tourism in some manner,” he said.
A group of VCU graduate students performed a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) for Hanover Tourism Supporters last year.
That collaboration will continue with the VCU Brand Center, which trains students for careers in advertising.
Hanover Tourism Supporters will be seeking out opportunities for grants, public-private partnerships, development of a centralized website, and more going forward.
“There’s no one single answer,” Fuller said.
Peace said, “We’ve got to be about jobs. We’ve got to be about, ‘How do we grow revenues for state and local government organically as opposed to from the top down?’ And so I think this sort of grassroots effort to promote Hanover will have some really amazing benefits down the line.”