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City, county discuss partnership to attract tourists
Outdoor tourism opportunities like Rock Island State Park offers have made Warren County a popular destination, even with COVID concerns.

McMinnville’s Tourism Development Board met with Warren County’s Economic and Agriculture Development Committee to discuss what a future partnership between the two would look like.

Tourism Development Board chair Sarah Cantrell discussed what the board has done since its inception. The TDB is funded through the city of McMinnville’s hotel/ motel tax.

“All of you are probably familiar with the new mural that went up at Security Federal,” said Cantrell. “The mural, ‘Behind the Scenes’ with Laurence Fishburne, and an upcoming episode of ‘Nick’s Wild Ride’ are all projects led by the TDB.

Referring to “Behind the Scenes” which is a TV segment, Cantrell said, “It’s going to hit about 30 million households. That’s one of the larger-scaled projects that TDB has been a part of.”

TDB member Christy Ross said Nick Hoffman of “Nick’s Wild Ride” has 11 million followers on Facebook. She said, “Once you add up all of the stuff, we’re going to be right around 100 million hits for all the exposure we’re getting.”

Ross said this type of publicity inspires day-cationers to come to Warren County. She said, “When they’re travelling through, instead of going somewhere else, they stop here for a night and spend their money here.”

According to the state, in 2019 Warren County enjoyed a 3% growth in tourism from the previous year. “We obviously don’t know what 2020 is going to look like,” Cantrell said.

Warren County Executive Jimmy Haley said, “The number of people coming to the state park in this past year has not decreased. It’s increased.” He credited that to regional tourism and weekend trips.

Cantrell said, “We learned especially in 2020 that we have an advantage with our tourism and assets because they’re all mostly outdoors.”

Warren County has 175 miles of waterways, which was said at the meeting to be more than any other county in the state.

Haley said, “The state’s also getting involved in the process. I can’t tell much about it. They’re buying another large tract in Warren County to create something as well.”

The city’s hotel/ motel tax was passed with the purpose of funding the TDB, and the city has approved a new Airbnb tax as well. In the end, TDB members asked Economic and Agriculture Development Committee members if the possibility exists to use the county’s hospitality tax as funding for tourism endeavors. Cantrell said, “Effective tourism does lead to relocation which grows your tax base.”

The joint meeting between the city’s Tourism Development Board and the county’s Economic and Agriculture Development Committee was the beginning of what could be a collaborative effort between the governments to encourage tourism development.

“It’s not every day that Grant Swallows walks into your classroom,” he said.

Shehane was humbled by the experience and gave credit to those who helped him achieve this goal.

“Teaching has been challenging for everyone this year and there are many great teachers to choose from,” Mr. Shehane said. “I’ve learned so much from the teachers at Centertown and the teachers from all over the district.”