At least 50,000 visitors are expected at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July 2016 in Cleveland.
The RNC can be a real visibility opportunity for Ashtabula County! How can we capitalize on the RNC? Here are six ways we can do that.
As a starting point, it is important for us to identify what we can do to make the RNC successful, and in so doing make Ashtabula County successful. Remember the customer or client always comes first. The following ideas are possible “win-win” strategies. If we haven’t already, we need to organize and put forward our ideas to the RNC, the Greater Cleveland Partnership, and others. The Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County is willing to work with everyone in making that happen. From a countywide standpoint, we must set priorities and be clear on what we want!
One strategy already in motion is to attract RNC delegates and visitors to Ashtabula County for special tourism (and learning) experiences. Wine Country along the 534 Corridor (and elsewhere) and the Bridge Street District in Ashtabula are great draws. Our covered bridges are an attraction. Fishing Conneaut Creek, Lake Erie, and Pymatuning Reservoir is a draw for die-hard fisherman. Antiquing is another attraction if we have some unique treasures. SPIRE Institute is an attraction for those eager to see world-class sports education and training activities and resources. And let’s not forget that Ashtabula is the hometown of Urban Meyer!
I would urge us to prepare a special county marketing brochure (for use in electronic and print form) calling attention to what Ashtabula County can offer RNC leaders and delegates. Our various organizational websites should also include information on what we can offer. All this must be done in a coordinated way. We need to be ready well in advance of the RNC event. This would be a great opportunity to use “art” to tell the story of our county. For example, each community could create a piece of art that tells that community’s story. Art is a creative and differentiating way to draw attention to communities.
A second is to use the opportunity to communicate with Republican leaders about our development funding opportunities and needs. Congressman Dave Joyce can be a real asset in this regard. This is a great time for sidebar conversations about grants to support education, infrastructure, Lake Erie coastline, lakefront development, the arts, culture, and music, healthcare and social assistance, community collaborations, and other community funding priorities. And yes, our Democratic leaders can help with the RNC in many ways.
A third is to show off what Ashtabula County does extremely well. We need to think about our educational centers of excellence and community and economic development (including agriculture) projects or programs that could serve as valuable role models for other rural communities and counties.
A fourth is to make connections with influential business, educational, government, philanthropic, agricultural, and media leaders about advancing economic and community development in rural communities and counties. Why not organize and host a meeting of influential rural leaders to have conversations about advancing rural communities, especially in a more collaborative way?
A fifth strategy is to use our large (or significant) local financial supporters of the National and Ohio Republican Parties as entrees to RNC leaders and visitors.
Finally, don’t forget family ties and friendships. If visitors to the RNC have family and friends in Ashtabula County, this can be an impetus for a valuable conversation with RNC visitors.
And remember that we should not just do these things for the RNC event. We should be using the RNC event as an opportunity for us to get our act together in marketing and promoting economic and community development in a coordinated way. In that sense, the RNC is the triggering event.
What have I missed? Please share your ideas. Thank you.