Gaston County’s quest to attract new visitors here includes spending money on marketing and communications, in an effort to promote the local brand.
But the county’s tourism arm also offers funds directly to a variety of projects that it believes will further spread a positive message and lure new people in. And the next cycle for those tourism grants has officially opened.
Gaston County Travel and Tourism Director Michael Applegate said the program has taken on a more significant role since debuting two years ago. And its aim is simple.
“The grant program’s goal is to support local events and programs that assist us in maximizing our tourism assets, in order to grow visitation and partner value,” he said. “Last year, we awarded more than $61,000 in grants to 14 recipients.”
June 30 deadline
Grant applications for events and programs that stimulate visitation from a radius of 50 miles or more will be accepted until a deadline of June 30. The Grants Committee of the Tourism Advisory board will then evaluate applications during the month of July and will make funding recommendations to the full board during its regularly scheduled meeting Aug. 21.
Travel and Tourism staff will then notify grant recipients of their award in writing by Aug. 31, Applegate said.
“In the next cycle, we’ll have approximately $70,000 available for grants,” he said.
An application packet can be downloaded from the travel and tourism website at gogaston.org.
A total of $61,375 has been divvied out in the current fiscal year that ends June 30. Grants went to a variety of events that enhanced local tourism, including fishing, soccer, baseball, golf and soccer tournaments, holiday festivals, road races and more.
Achieving four goals
Because all of the money that was budgeted for the grants wasn’t initially awarded, there were funds left over. So the tourism department’s staff allocated it to additional projects, including $7,500 for construction of a pad for a new bike repair station on the town common in Cramerton that caters to visiting cyclists.
“After making the awards last year, there were some dollars left over, and the grants committee and board decided to leave the rest to staff discretion,” said Applegate. “So that money helped Cramerton to accomplish what they wanted with the bike Fixit station.”
For the upcoming grant cycle, Applegate said special consideration will be given to projects that can achieve four key goals: align with Travel and Tourism’s mission; attract visitors from outside the county and generate hotel stays; promote a positive image of Gaston County throughout the southeastern United States; and provide evidence of tourism sales and marketing return on investment.
You can reach Michael Barrett at 704-869-1826 or on Twitter @GazetteMike.