Vision for Switzerland County
gaining attention statewide
goal is to create a tourism destination
while revitalizing the downtown area
VEVAY, Ind. A community-wide movement is under way in
the sleepy Ohio River town of Vevay, Ind., that is transforming it into
a tourist destination designed to drive economic development.
Indidan Edition Cover
In A Vision for Switzerland County, six community
groups and government agencies have pooled their ideas, their dreams
and financial resources to develop a strategy that will stimulate development,
attract tourists and revitalize their downtown. So far, up to $650,000
has been committed to the project, and only some of it is the result
of casino revenue that has filtered into the community via local government.
The rest is the result of true commitment on the part of nonprofit foundations
and community resources, according to the plans architects.
The Switzerland County Council, the Town of Vevay, Switzerland County
Tourism, Switzerland County Economic Development, the Vevay-Switzerland
County Foundation and the Community Foundation of Switzerland County
are part of the innovative project that combines a clustering program
for retail shops, encompasses county wide signage, business workshops
and incentives, building renovations and the Vevay Main Street Facade
and Signage program.
The project is lead by Switzerland County Executive Director of Tourism
David Attaway, who was hired less than a year ago to head the effort.
We are encouraged but realistic, he said. What we
are looking for is sustainable economic development through tourism.
The Visions project is being touted by tourism industry officials as
a model of success. Attaway, along with Visions project coordinator
Angie Satterfield, will give a presentation about the project on May
11 at the Indiana Convention Center at the 2007 Indiana Cultural Tourism
Conference. Dr. Amanda Cecil, Professor of Tourism at Indiana University-Purdue
University Indianapolis and one of the conference coordinators, said,
The Indiana Office of Tourism recommended the Switzerland County
project as a model it hopes other counties will emulate.
During the conference, more than 150 cultural tourism and hospitality
specialists, political decision makers, travel professionals and expert
consultants will gather together to discuss issues related to public
relations, integrated marketing strategies, and development and planning
of cultural tourism.
We are excited and thrilled to be asked to present the project,
said Satterfield, 39, who gave up her previous job as a schoolteacher
to join the Visions project.
And in the most recent development, the Visions project was touted by
state tourism officials as the reason they chose Vevay among only three
small towns in Indiana to receive more than $333,000 in grants and loans
as part of a new downtown revitalization program. Amy Vaughn, director
of Indianas Office of Tourism, made the announcement April 27
on the Switzerland County Courthouse steps.
Vaughn later said: Vevay rose to the top because of the unique,
collaboration that is going on here at all levels of the community.
We see it as something other towns would want to look at for their own
development. What theyre doing here is really innovative, and
its all happening in such a short period of time thats
Visions is a 24-month project with specific
goals and objectives, Attaway said. The actual start and end of
the project are a bit fuzzy; the first phase will end when the funding
runs out. The program began in earnest in June 2006.
A major focus of the project included taking stock of what was available
within the community and using that to stimulate economic growth. We
wanted to retain the charm and uniqueness of our county, and we didnt
want to bring in outside sources, said Attaway.
During the research phase of the project, leaders discovered an abundance
of artists and craftsman in the community who just didnt have
the financial means or the appropriate outlet to show their goods.
we are looking for is sustainable economic development through
David Attaway, Switzerland Co. Tourism Director
A plan was devised to open several retail stores that
would showcase those handicrafts and allow artists to sell their wares
for a small commission fee. Four stores have opened since October 2006
that offer those talented community members a chance to market their
merchandise. Those stores are The Mercantile, Signatures of Switzerland
County, Antiques & Treasures, and Amish Goods. Three of the stores
on along Vevays one-block-long Main Street, and The Mercantile
is on the adjoining Ferry Street. Other new stores are also popping
up, including the G.G.s Grill, which operates on Ferry Street
and features a gift shop and candy store, all in one beautifully renovated
building. The hard-to-miss Bizarre Ladies gift shop is located just
across the street in a lavender colored building that is still undergoing
some final renovation.
The new Coffee Works Cafe, meanwhile, operates on Main Street that features
local artwork on the walls. And the Community Studio Gallery has moved
to ground level, where it displays local artists in a location on Main
Although we are still in the early stages with most of the stores,
we are getting positive feedback and the artisans are making some money,
said Satterfield, who oversees the tourism-operated retail shops.
Martha Bladen, owner of The Bizarre Lady, said the new businesses have
helped attract more people to her shop as well. It is nice having
more businesses because people now see this as a destination to visit,
she said. Ive noticed a bit of an increase in tourism.
Attaway said tourism officials understand that in order to attract visitors
to an area, there needs to be several places they can shop or dine.
This concept is called clustering. We deliberately opened the
stores in a timely fashion together in order to get a clustering effect,
With more than 500,000 visitors coming each year to Belterra Casino
Resort & Spa, just seven miles east of downtown Vevay, officials
needed a way to attract some of those visitors to the town. The close
proximity of the new retail stores in the downtown area provides visitors
with numerous shops to browse in one easy-to-walk location.
Pam Brindley-Raley, manager of the new G.G.s Grill, said she also
has noticed more people walking around the downtown area. I think
the project is working because more people are coming to check things
out, she said.
Besides simply opening stores and allowing people to sell their goods
in them, Visions also has created a series of workshops that allow business
owners or potential retailers to gain valuable marketing and business
skills. Many people just simply did not have the tools necessary
to open or expand their business, said Satterfield. These
workshops offer practical solutions and advice so that people gain the
skills they need to succeed.
So far, there have been workshops on accounting and bookkeeping, networking,
web presence, and marketing skills in which many existing and potential
business owners have participated.
by Don Ward
inspect items at Amish Goods,
a new store on Vevays Main Street.
Everything in the store was made
in Switzerland County.
Another aspect of the project has been a grant program
initiated to help downtown businesses get new signs or facades. As part
of the program, businesses can apply for up to $5,000 in a 50-50 match
to help renovate the exterior of their building or get new signage.
Either the building owner or the shop owner can apply for the grant.
Numerous retailers have taken advantage of the program. Main Street
in Vevay is now sporting an updated and inviting look.
Bladens shop has just been approved for one of the facade grants.
She said the grant program has helped business owners make major changes
that they would otherwise be unable to do. It has just helped
tremendously, she said.
Jon Bond, executive director of the Switzerland County Economic Development
Corp, said the Visions project appears to be doing great. There
is such a visible difference in Vevay with the new facades and the new
stores, he said. The activity level has been great; the
changes have made Vevay a vibrant place to show potential investors.
Meanwhile, as town leaders were implementing the Visions project, several
local residents and business owners formed a First Friday
program. During this event, which is held on the first Friday of every
month during the evening, visitors, residents, art gallery owners and
the community at large gather together to socialize, visit, shop, dine
and enjoy live entertainment.
The combined effects of the new Visions project and First Friday
events created an economic stimulus for the town that appears to be
growing. Tonya Krall, owner of Vevays Swiss Alps Printing, said,
The new shops and First Friday have been absolutely wonderful
for our town because they are bringing in more tourists. She also
is a tour guide on the Step-on Historical Tours, which offers
tours around the county for motor coaches. She said there are far more
attractions to keep people interested and coming back.
it all started
The entire project got started when the tourism board
of directors, which included Satterfield at that time, was looking for
a new executive director of tourism. We were an aggressive dynamic
group, and we knew we needed to look outside of the box and get someone
without local baggage, she said. Sometimes an outsider can
bring in new eyes and new ideas.
The board did a national search and found just the right person David
Attaway, who holds a masters degree in marketing from Ohio University,
was living in
Las Vegas at the time. He said that when the board contacted
him about the job, he was impressed with the intelligent process
of looking for someone different.
With a background in casino marketing and a desire to be closer to his
family in nearby Ohio, Attaway agreed to sign on with Switzerland County.
It was during the early days of his leadership, and after a retreat
with the board of directors in January 2006, that the concept for Visions
Attaway knew tourism definitely needed to move Belterra Casino visitors
through the county to create economic opportunities. In the past, the
county was unable to capitalize on that. He also realized he needed
to pull the various community factions together and help build a positive
and visionary plan for the county.
The trick was to get everyone to rally around a central plan,
At a meeting with the six groups, participants identified the challenges
facing their county, and goals were discussed. I told everyone
to shoot for the moon, as if money was no object, said Attaway.
The outcome was a new and positive energy and a grander scale of thinking
than what was previously considered. People are not talking about
possibilities, not obstacles, he said. We understand that
some of this may fail, but the majority of the ideas will work.
Pam Acton, executive director of the Community Foundation, said people
were hesitant at first and unsure how things would go. At least
we were trying, she said. To see the different factions
working together and to see what is actually happening in the community
is just great.
the next step
When Attaway arrived in Switzerland County last year,
he was excited about its historical background as the first commercial
winery in the United States. He saw the wisdom in capitalizing on that
uniqueness. He is now working to create a branding process that strategically
uses that fact.
Part of his new strategy includes the creation of signs
with a colorful insignia and logo. The 33 signs, which will soon be
placed throughout the county once state highway officials approve them,
are beautiful purple and gold featuring a simple bunch of grapes as
a logo. Some of the signs, which recognize the various towns and attractions
in the county, are ready to be put up.
We are trying to create linkage throughout the community with
these signs, said Attaway.
Also, Satterfield and Attaway recently traveled to Paris, Ark., to study
a very successful winery museum built by Robert Cowie of Cowie Wines.
Cowie Winery and Historic Arkansas Wine Museum is the only wine museum
in the United States dedicated to preserving the wine history of an
Attaway is working on a plan to create a wine museum in Vevay. The
idea is still in the brainstorming stage and evaluation stages. We are
simply looking at whats feasible, he said. He has asked
Cowie to come help him put one together.
As part of that evaluation stage, Visions is working to buy the old
Grusard building on the corner of Main and Ferry streets. It sits strategically
at the intersection of the only stoplight in town. Historic Landmarks
of Indiana provided a grant to do a study on what it would take to purchase
and renovate the building. It is doable, said Attaway.
He said a Portland, Ore., building group is also coming to Vevay to
look at possible locations for a wine museum. We need to share
Switzerland Countys story of what happened here when J.J. Dufour
started the first commercial winery in the country, he said. Its
important, and it is our heritage.
As A Vision for Switzerland County moves into its second
phase, Attaway said one of the goals is to get everyone self-sustaining.
We want to see private enterprise take over. In the meantime,
we continue to education in the process. He also said Visions
needs to keep setting more goals and keep moving forward.
In an effort to keep that vision moving forward, Denver-based
marketing consultant John Shallert was invited to lead a training seminar
for town merchants. Shallert travels the country to present retail marketing
wisdom for small town store owners. His program, Destination Development
we held at the Ogle Haus hotel in early April and attracted 50 participants.
His program includes on-site seminars and critiques of storefronts and
in-store presentation. Our retailers got great feedback and some
expert advice from him, said Attaway.
Next, the Visions steering committee may participate in a recently announced
statewide tourism grant that will pay half the expenses to bring in
Seattle-based tourism and marketing consultant Roger Brooks. Brooks
travels the globe helping communities and resorts transform themselves
into must-see tourism destinations. Brooks provided the
keynote address and additional seminars at the Hoosier Hospitality tourism
industry conference in March in Indianapolis.
With a fresh perspective from new leadership and outside advice from
nationally recognized consultants, Switzerland County tourism officials
and local business owners feel confident they are moving in the right
direction toward achieving their initial goals. And the entire process
is moving along at a fast pace. The results are evident just
take a stroll down Vevays Main Street.
Satterfield said: We hope A Vision for Switzerland County
continues on and on because it has been great for our community.
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