The Visitors Bureau of Highland County updated the Highland County Board of Commissioners on a successful year of projects at its weekly Wednesday morning meeting.
Jamie Wheeler, executive director of the visitors bureau, said the organization has six main projects in 2022, which are as follows: New website design, video project with Ohio’s Co-op Advertising Program, Tri-County Battle of the Bands, 2022 Social Media Influencer Tour, Ohio Travel Association Leadership Institute, and local advertising.
Wheeler said the website design project has been in the works “for a long time.” She said the project finally launched on Aug. 1, 2022, with the county’s goal for it to be something both residents and visitors can use.
“We wanted this to be a resource, not only for our residents and our visitors, but also our businesses in Highland County,” Wheeler said. “We were hearing time and time again, the businesses were looking to attract mid and upper-level management and were having trouble because people kept saying, ‘Well, there’s nothing to do there.’ We hope that this is a resource that they can say, ‘Here, look at all these things there are to do in Highland County.’”
She said the website has multiple aspects such as a calendar of events, blogs, pages on where to eat, shop and stay, and will eventually have a trip planner option where people can make their own trip to the county.
Wheeler said the statistics for the new site didn’t start until Aug. 25, 2022, and in that time the site has had 6,165 sessions, 5,721 unique users and 12,219 total page views. She said the biggest takeaway was that the organization hasn’t done paid advertising yet on the site, meaning all the views were just “organic.”
Concerning the video project, she said this was the second year the county participated in the Ohio Co-op Advertising Program. Wheeler said in this year’s version, the county focused on the outdoor adventures it has available. She said that in 2023, the county’s video project plans were to use the 2021 and 2022 videos and repackage them into 15- and 30-second videos “because that’s what viewers are watching more.”
Regarding the Tri-County Battle of the Bands, Wheeler said it was a collaboration between Clinton, Fayette and Highland counties with the goal to “showcase not only bands in our region but get people to travel outside of the county and throughout the region.” She said the first year’s event was held in Wilmington, with Highland County’s Filo Beddoe chosen as the winner. She also said that next year’s version will be held in Fayette County and Highland County will have a chance to host it in 2024.
She said the organization’s big project recently has been the 2022 Social Media Influencer Tour. She also said that Heather Johnson of @FoodHussy came to the county a few years ago and found a “special spot in her heart” for the county and was willing to help it and coordinate to get other social media influencers to come, too.
Wheeler said there were a couple of blogs done by the influencers, with “Ohio Road Trip Getaway” getting 708 page views, “Cincinnati Day Trip: Highland County” getting 1,648 page views and “Great Places to Eat in Highland County” getting 2,129 page views. She said that compared to 2021 when the influencer tour got 264,510 impressions and 4,915 combined engagements, the 2022 one got 445,394 impressions and 26,566 combined engagements.
Wheeler said the leadership institute was a place for those in the tourism and travel industry in Ohio where they were able to get different helpful resources for those in their positions.
For local advertising, going into the holiday season, through radio she said the organization is asking people to shop local and small. She also said the organization is also continuing its newspaper ads as well.
In other visitors bureau news, Casey McIntosh, the bureau’s board president, said the organization has been looking at the bed tax in the county. She said the bed tax is currently on businesses with five beds. She asked the board of commissioners to change that from five beds to one bed.
“We’re just asking that consider changing that tax law so that we can continue to increase what we’re doing to build Highland County, build the awareness and keep growing,” McIntosh said. “It impacts our businesses in such a huge way, especially at the holiday time but even in those down times because that’s how we’re going to drive more.”
McIntosh said the organization currently receives just under $50,000 a year from the tax, and that at a first glance there have been $1 million dollars spent on short-term rentals this year in the county. However, she also said that the latter number wouldn’t specifically translate into one million dollars for the visitors bureau and that she didn’t know what it would look like.
She said that this change isn’t unprecedented since she knew that Athens County and Hocking Hills have already done something similar.
Bill Fawley, Highland County auditor, said the tax is a 3 percent lodging tax. He said he thought the organization was getting a little over $30,000 per year, meaning the bed tax change would move that number up “considerably.” Fawley also said that of that tax number the visitors bureau received, the county would take 3 percent from that for administrative fees and the like.
McIntosh said the visitors’ bureau has been meeting with business owners on this topic, asking them how they might feel about the change, to which she said the organization received very positive” feedback from the “majority” of the owners.
Fawley said that the county has eight establishments currently paying the tax and that those places file quarterly. He said if the change is made, the county would just need to send out regulations to everybody involved.
“I don’t mind taking a look at it and giving it some consideration,” commissioner Dave Daniels said. “I know that you guys are doing a lot of good work and doing a lot of work reaching out and if that would help that out, I’m willing to consider it.”
In other news, the board of commissioners approved a quote from Watsons Pest Control to do termite and pest control at the Highland County Jail and Hi-TEC Building. Britton said those buildings are required to have that work done “every so often,” with the quote for the work being $500 a month.
The board of commissioners approved the replacement of lights in the Sally Port at the Highland County Jail. Commissioner Terry Britton said the material and labor for the project were quoted to be $2,230. He also said the work was for the replacement of six total lights and new light fixtures due to new parts for the older fixtures being hard to get.
The commissioners approved two repair projects from Cornele Plumbing in the Highland County Sheriff’s Office. Britton said one of them was for a kitchen grease interceptor which would help the grease trap be used like it should, which was quoted for $985. He said the other was to rework the garbage disposal, quoted for $315.
Daniels said that Res. No. 22-181 was for a $50,000 grant that Highland County was eligible for because it contains federal land.
There were four resolutions approved by the board of commissioners:
* Res. No. 22-180 is approval for an extension agreement and authorization for Brett Geary to sign on behalf of the commissioners.
* Res. No. 22-181 is a request to rename a fund, 2375 LATCF (Local Assistance and Tribal Consistency Fund). This renamed fund will also have an appropriation of $50,000.
* Res. No. 22-182 is a request from the board of elections for an additional appropriation from unappropriated funds in the amount of $17,423.
* Res. No. 22-183 is authorization for a reimbursement of funds from Child Support Enforcement to Public Assistance in the amount of $10,601.41 for July and August 2022 Child Support shared cost distribution.
Reach Jacob Clary at 937-402-2570.