Georgia Tourism team completes Morgan tour

Sarah Wibell News

The Georgia Tourism Product Development Team (TPD) completed their two-day assessment of Morgan County Wednesday, June 13. The TPD promotes tourism in Georgia by assisting marketing efforts of for-profit, non-profit, and governmental organizations.

Members of the TPD visited numerous locations in the county to view tourism assets and will write and present a report in the next three to four months that will provide advice, suggestions, and examples of other communities that have had success with similar assets. Potential grant funding is also available through the TPD.

Having requested the TPD to survey Morgan County over a year and a half ago, Ellen Sims, executive director for the Madison-Morgan Convention & Visitors Bureau, was excited to tour them through the county. She explained, “This is the equivalent of a $50K consult that is being done for free.”

City Manager David Nunn shared, “What we look to the TPD’s expertise is ‘What can we be doing better; what are we missing?’ Sometimes it takes critical review from subject matter experts around the table who are our partners to make [the] leaders and elected officials know it’s okay to step outside of the box and try something new that may or may not work, but that it’s okay to try. Sometimes we focus on that comfortability too much, so we look to the TPD to tell us to push the boundaries because they’ve seen other communities like ours that have unique resources.”

The first day focused on the City of Madison and included a tour of the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, a presentation on downtown development planning, Amici Livery, and a driving tour of house museums like the Morgan County African-American Museum, Rose Cottage, Roger House, and Heritage Hall. The second day looked at assets county-wide: Farmview Market, the Steffen Thomas Museum of Art, Southern Cross Ranch, Yesterday’s Café where they met with Rutledge Mayor Bruce Altznauer, and Hard Labor Creek State Park.

The day concluded with a county-wide discussion at the James Madison Inn. The TPD met with county commissioners, County Manager Adam Mestres, and representatives from the Georgia Safari and Conservation Park including CEO William “Bill” Killmer, Brandy Anderson, and Michael “Mike” Conrads.

The Georgia Safari and Conservation Park has the endorsement of Director Emeritus of Columbus Zoo Jack Hanna, Former Director of Animal Programs at Walt Disney World and Director of Houston Zoo Rick Barongi, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) mentoring program. In addition, it has partnerships with the University of Georgia’s veterinary program, Emory University, and Camp Twin Lakes.

Killmer noted that people from all over the world are following the development of the Safari Park, with Japan and Germany cited as examples.

Conrads stated, “One hundred and eighty-six million people visit AZA accredited organizations – that’s only 22 or so facilities across the United States. That number is greater than all professional sports combined. It’s huge! That’s why we’ve hung in there, because this thing has such incredible potential, and the best tax dollar is the tourist dollar. This is a legacy project; we are in it, and it is going to be breaking ground at the end of summer, early fall at the latest.”

The TPD is also amenable to follow-up consultations to provide additional assistance.

For more information about the TPD, go to: http://www.georgia.org/industries/georgia-tourism/product-development-team/.

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