Grant will solve identity crisis
You see a talking lizard and you think of Geico. The golden arches mean McDonald’s. And everyone recognizes the Nike swish.
That’s why Graham County leaders are pursing a grant from the Appalachian Regional Council (ARC).
Funds will be used to spread the word that “Graham County enjoys some of the best preserved and most spectacular mountain scenery in the eastern United States that provide a diverse range of destination assests.”
Promoting county assets has long been a goal.
“It’s not like we dreamed this up yesterday. It’s been an ongoing priority,” Graham Revitalization Economic Action Team (GREAT) Director Rick Davis said Monday after a meeting with “key partners.”
The need to promote Graham County’s natural resources was identified in Reimagining Robbinsville 2012, a study by the UNC Chapel Hill Center for Sustainable Community Design, and in 2014 in the Magellan Strategy Group’s Graham County Strategic Tourism Plan Destination 2025 study.
So why does the county still lack branding? “The lack of a sharp image for Graham County as a destination can be attributable to limited marketing resources and most of the tourism businesses in the county being small,” Davis said.
With the grant, marketing resources won’t be so limited.
“We will use the funds from a $20,000 ARC grant already in place to hire a consulting firm to develop a destination brand logo and signage with input at several public meetings,” Davis said. “The goal of the strategic tourism plan is to double the impact of tourism from $25 million to $50 million by 2025.”
“The ARC grant is a very big deal that has a lot of potential in it for Graham County, the Town of Fontana Dam, the Town of Robbinsville, and the Town of Lake Santeelah,” said Sophia Paulos, economic development director for Graham County.
A recognizable destination brand logo and “way-finding” signage should help.
“Using that brand image and in cooperation with NCDOT, tourists will be guided by signs across the county that are unified in their appearance.” Paulos said. “No matter where you are in the county you will have the same style sign guiding you to hotels, restaurants, natural wonders, towns and generally anything a tourist may want or need to enjoy their stay here in Graham County.”
The grant will pay for signage that will include QR codes visitors can scan with smart phones to obtain detailed information about local tourist attractions.
“It will be good for the whole county,” Davis said.
Pre-application for the ARC grant is Sept. 30. If approved, GREAT will submit a full application in late October.