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County commissioners oppose tourism branding effort


November 18, 2009
LANCASTER — County commissioner and Berlin mayor-elect Paul Grenier will read into the record a letter opposing the county-wide tourist "branding" and marketing effort — "Grand Resorts; Grand Adventure" — at a meeting today (Nov. 18) from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the White Mountains Community College (WMCC) in Berlin.

The meeting is designed for both elected and appointed officials as well as those interested in economic development who are eager to help find a niche for the city as it seeks to provide visitors with places in which to spend money on nightlife, restaurants, shops, and other activities.

Both Commissioner and chairman Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg voted to read such a letter of opposition at their monthly meeting on Veterans' Day, Nov. 11.

Commissioner Tom Brady of Jefferson, whose family business — Six Gun City — was struck off the list of "Great Adventures" because it did not meet the initiative's very high-standard criteria, abstained from the vote but participated in the discussion.

Commissioner Grenier said he could not support the branding effort as long as it was set up as an exclusive network of attractions and businesses, rather than being all-inclusive. If that aspect of the program were redesigned, then, he said, he then could support it.

Chairman Judd said that he believes that the branding effort is designed to "mostly help" the three Grand Hotels — The Balsams in Dixville, the Mount Washington in Bretton Woods, and the Mountain View Grand in Whitefield. Although they employ "quite a few people," two of the three corporate owners "don't keep their money here," chairman Judd said.

When Commissioner Grenier said he could sign on if there were changes made, chairman Judd countered, "There would have to be a big change before I would sign on."

Commissioner Brady said that he believes that NCIC and those involved in the project have had "good intentions" but that he did not believe that their marketing approach would work in Coös County.

"I don't believe in 'trickle-down' tourism," he said.

Roger Brooks, who heads up the Seattle-based Destination Development International (DDI) team, will be on hand at today's meeting at WMCC.

He is holding meetings tomorrow with Groveton area officials, business owners, economic development specials, and interested citizens at Carter Hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Groveton's Methodist Church. A countywide meeting is also scheduled from 6 to 7:30 at the White Mountains Regional School District in Whitefield on Route 3, north of town.

A dynamic speaker, Mr. Brooks has worked with more than 700 communities on site-specific branding, tourism, downtown development, and marketing efforts. Mr. Brooks began work in Coös and northern New Hampshire two years ago.

Cathy Conway, the vice president of Northern Community Investment Corporation (NCIC) under whose umbrella the initiative has been going forward, had asked in September that the county commissioners sponsor a request for a $3.5 million federal stimulus package to provide extensive "way-finding" signs as well as some 30 kiosks across the county's highways and byways that did not call for any local or state dollar matches.

Although two of the commissioners were originally supportive of the grant application when first polled by phone, the trio then apparently decided not to sign the application without holding a hearing.

At a later meeting on Oct. 14 after the application deadline had passed, there was a dust-up between Commissioner Brady and Ms. Conway not only over his own family's business being struck from the Grand Adventure list, but also on the whole idea of pitting businesses against each another.

At the Nov. 11 meeting, Commissioner Brady said he had spent "countless hours" looking into DDI on the Internet and had concluded that Mr. Brooks has "great ideas" but that reports are lacking that he has brought sustained success to potential tourist destinations.

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