March 21, 2012LANCASTER — New Hampshire Grand (www.nhgrand.com), a marketing program to support travel and tourism in Coös County, neighboring counties and Quebec, has taken to heart the criticism that it was focusing too much on the three Grand Hotels — one of which is now shuttered for at least another 15 months — and potential high-end visitors. It is refocusing its efforts on the region's small businesses and striving to develop a more inclusive culture across the county.
Northern Community Investment Corp. vice president of economic development Cathy Conway and Scott Tranchmontagne, president of the Manchester-based public relations firm Montagne Communications, discussed some of the changes and transitions underway in the NH Grand initiative with the county commissioners at the board's March 14 meeting.
In mid-February NCIC was awarded a $35,000 challenge grant from the Neil and Louise Tillotson Fund, designed to allow it to expand its base of local financial support for its marketing and tourism efforts across Coös County.
For three years, the North Country's brand has been, "Grand Resorts, Grand Adventure." But, in an effort to be less grandiose, Conway and Tranchmontagne revealed its new tagline: "Experience New Hampshire's Grand North."
Six new members — Phoebe Backler of Milan of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail, Carol Cunningham of Carlson's Lodge in Twin Mountain, John Dyer of WMCC in Berlin, Wayne Frizzell of First Colebrook Bank in Colebrook, Elizabeth Ruediger of Savoir Flare in Berlin, and Gina Saladino of Saladino's in Gorham — have been added to the New Hampshire Grand Development team whose members will reach out to the community to help raise the $35,000 in match funds. The other members include: Larry Magor and Mark Butterfield of the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods; Jim Covey of Profile Deluxe Motel in Twin Mountain; Ron Guerin of Fiddleheads in Colebrook; Bruce Hicks of Santa's Village in Jefferson; DRED's North Country economic development specialist Beno Lamontagne of Colebrook; Sylvia Poulin of the Main Street Program in Berlin; and Chris Thayer of the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Conway and Tranchmontagne said the concentrated marketing effort could not take all credit, but that planning and developing a specific outreach program had readlly paid off. From 2009 to 2010, Coös County had a 10 percent increase in Rooms and Meals tax revenue, the only one of the state's 10 counties to see that increase. And the following year, 2010 to 2011, Coös registered an 8 percent increase in Rooms and Meals tax revenue — well above the state average.
Conway described the effort now underway to build nine- by nine-foot H-shaped way-finding information kiosks in Berlin, Gorham, Groveton, Colebrook, and Twin Mountain. They will be WiFi hotspots, and will be powered by solar panels.
Currently, the Worcester, Mass. area is being targeted; analysis indicates that NH Grand gets more bang for its advertising buck in that location that reaches south to Rhode Island.
Commissioner Tom Brady of Jefferson, general manager of Six Gun City, said that central Mass. residents are familiar with northern N. H., and realize how convenient it is to get onto either I-91 or I-93. He had just worked at a camping show in Springfield, Mass., that had attracted 40,000 visitors, including from Conn. and N.Y. State.
There are now 15 Certified Grand Adventures and 25 Best of N. H. Grand businesses in the categories of dining, retail, and arts and entertainment.
Mostly Muffins on Parsons Street in Colebrook has just been added to the "Best of" list.
Both county treasurer Fred King of Colebrook and commissioner Burnham "Bing" Judd urged Conway and Tranchmontagne not to lose track of the state's official designation for the northern tip of Coös — the Great North Woods. The area, King said, boasts fishing, hunting, and tracts of forestland. "You've walked away from the Great North Woods," King complained. He encouraged the two Grand representatives to consider printing brochures in French and also to reach out to the Montreal market.
Commissioner Paul Grenier of Berlin said that he had been very negative about Coös marketing campaign in its early days but after seeing results had become a believer.