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Fields of Gold receives grant for tourism marketing

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that the Central Shenandoah Planning District Commission was among 37 recipients of tourism marketing grants totaling more than $543,000.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Marketing Leverage Grant Fund program provides matching funds for marketing projects across the state to help increase visitation and revenue for Virginia’s localities through tourism. Gov. McDonnell had earlier increased funding for the program as part of his administration’s effort to increase economic development through tourism.

The CSPDC will receive nearly $8,000 to market the Fields of Gold agritourism initiative. The Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Bath County Office of Tourism and the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Chamber of Commerce will partner on the project with the CSPDC, and each organization will supply matching funds to accomplish the planned marketing push.

Fields of Gold is a collaborative regional economic development program serving six counties and five cities in the Shenandoah Valley:  Counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Rockbridge, Rockingham, and Shenandoah and the Cities of Buena Vista, Harrisonburg, Lexington, Staunton, and Waynesboro. Fields of Gold is focused on promoting the Shenandoah Valley as an agritourism destination, creating and retaining jobs on the farm, expanding tourism jobs off the farm, and nurturing an environment for entrepreneurism.

Linda Hershey, president and CEO of the Greater Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce commented on the wide-reaching value of agritourism in the Shenandoah Valley region:

“Promoting our area as a diversified agritourism destination with the Fields of Gold is a worthwhile economic development tool that adds value to the agricultural enterprises and enhances their financial viability. With the guidance of the CSPDC and the Shenandoah Valley Partnership along with a coalition of local government and community partners, we are confident that they have the resources and experience to provide a marketable identity of our natural beauty and the appreciation of our farm products.  Our Chamber continues to be fully engaged in a number of Agritourism related activities including The Shenandoah Valley Agritourism Festival at Augusta Expoland, Good Times, Tastes & Traditions at the Frontier Culture Museum, the 4H/FFA Market Animal Show & Sales and The Augusta County Fair.”

Bath County Tourism Director Maggie Anderson echoes the growing enthusiasm surrounding the project: “Fields of Gold has been a very successful initiative and the work accomplished through the planning grant far exceeded our expectations. The VTC Marketing Grant will allow us to continue that work and I cannot wait to see what this team accomplishes in the next few months with this much needed infusion of funds.”

The VTC Marketing Leverage Program is designed to stimulate new tourism marketing through partnerships by leveraging limited marketing dollars, resulting in increased visitor spending.  A minimum of three entities must partner financially to apply and may consist of Virginia towns, cities, counties, convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, other local or regional destination marketing organizations, private businesses, museums, attractions, cultural events, and other not-for-profit entities.

“Grants such as these enable our localities to more effectively market themselves to potential visitors,” said Gov. McDonnell. “When more visitors come to Virginia the Commonwealth and the localities realize increased tax revenue, businesses prosper and new jobs are created.”

“These grants help enable local tourism partners undertake projects that might otherwise be beyond their fiscal reach, “said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “I see our Marketing Leverage Grants program as something that creates opportunity and breeds the kind of success that can only be achieved by people working together.”

In 2011 tourism generated $20.4 billion in revenue, supported 207,000 jobs and provided $1.32 billion in state and local taxes. Dollars invested in tourism are proven to provide a 5:1 return in tax revenue for Virginia, and the grant awards and matching funds provide a stimulus to localities seeking to increase tourism visitation and revenue.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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