August 26, 2013

Tourist commission wants united partnership with city

Looks to new marketing strategies

By Rob McDaniel
Staff Writer


The London-Laurel County Tourist Commission met Tuesday and spoke briefly about the city’s establishment of its own tourism and convention commission.

Commission Chairman Tom Handy said he had met with Judge Executive David Westerfield the previous week.

“I asked him how everything was going and he said he had no complaints, that the commission is doing good,” Handy said.  Handy added Westerfield had spoken with the department of local government and found that the city cannot take away the methods in which the commission has been receiving funding.

Handy went on to tell the commission he had sent a letter to Mayor Troy Rudder and the London City Council regarding the newly formed city tourism and convention commission.

The Sentinel-Echo filed an open records request with the Mayor’s Office for a letter sent by Tom Handy to Mayor Troy Rudder and London City Council members. The letter, dated Aug. 12, reads:

“I continue to be concerned with the new tourism commission and feel a need to continue a discussion we had at the council meeting.  This represents my thoughts and not that of the London-Laurel Tourist Commission (LLTC).  Suggestions in any new operating procedure would also have to be approved by the Laurel County Fiscal Court.

I regret our commission was not brought into the discussions earlier for we have decades of experience that would have been to your advantage.  We see ourselves as representatives of everyone in London and Laurel County with no boundary distinction.  I respect your authority to create a new commission and we will always do what is best for our community.  The past and present actions of county and city governments have proven that one voice in industrial development, college park development, united charitable endeavors, festivals and other activities has proven to benefit all.  We should strive to make these two commissions as unified as possible and also, from the initial organization, seek a procedure that will avoid inefficient duplication, direct competition and public disagreements.

There are multiple commissions in a single county in other areas, but I have not heard how that has benefited that county or that their accomplishments those of ours or other counties with one voice.  Our challenge is to make this new commission a partner in a common goal.

As a city government you represent business and commissioners on both boards.  County government is the same.  I am confident that neither you nor county officials wish to be arbiters of disagreement of those you represent on the two boards but that could be a real possibility.  You realize our legislators and state officials do not reward communities that fight among themselves.

Both commissions are created under the same laws, directed to perform the duties, composed of the same nominating bodies, funded by the same business enterprises, restricted by the same legislation and therefore we can work to accomplish the same goals of advancing the local economy and employment by improving tourism.

We will both have assets to bring to the table.  The new commission may have better funding and we may have better land ownership.  We have knowledge gained through experience and paid expertise.  New commissioners may bring energy and fresh thoughts.  Please feel free to discuss your plans with me, other commissioners and our executive directors before finalizing your plans.”

At the meeting Tuesday, Handy stated he did receive a response from Mayor Rudder.

“I received a letter back from the mayor stressing that the city has not asked for any of the funds that were levied on the hotels and motels.  The letter stated all the city is asking for is a cooperative relationship between the two organizations,” he said.

No representative from the Mayor’s Office or city council was present during the meeting.

The tourist commission will be hosting a slogan competition where one Laurel Countian’s suggestion will be selected as their official slogan for the London-Laurel County Tourist Commission.

The competition will run congruent with a plan to redefine the commission’s marketing strategies.

“We have a new web page and a new video is coming out and a lot of new things coming,” Handy said.  “So if we are going to make a change, now is the time to do it.”

Kim Collier, Tourist Commission co-director said the group previously hired Michael Breeding, who has been in the area filming local events as they occur.

Collier went on to say the video and new tourist commission website won’t be completed until they have a logo and a slogan.  She suggested the competition and recommended a $100 prize to the winner.

“(The slogan) would need to be brief and to the point,” Collier said.  “It should recognize the fun and adventurous activities that Laurel County has to offer.”

To enter the competition, participants must live in Laurel County and the winner will be required to sign over ownership of the slogan.

Collier thought the competition would be a fun way to get the community involved in local tourism events. 

She added Sen. Mitch McConnell would be visiting London for the World Chicken Festival.  McConnell was invited to be the Grand Marshall in the parade, which will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28 in downtown London.

“Sen. McConnell hasn’t accepted or rejected our request yet,” Collier said. “But we know he’s going to definitely be here for the Chicken Festival and he will be one of our honorees in the parade.  We’re just happy and honored that he’ll be here to join us in the festivities.”