The third Wednesday of every month, the Board of Directors for the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (JACVB) meet at the JACVB’s 310 E. State Street location to get to work. The meeting is called to order and the group, along with JACVB Executive Director Brittany Henry, discusses any updates, approves various finances, plans for upcoming events, and generally works on all things tourism. From reporting on the last Art Hop that was hosted by the JACVB to addressing a new appointment for the Board, the entire purpose behind the actions of each Board member is to promote the Jacksonville Area.
The 2013/2014 JACVB Board is comprised of various city officials and heads of the community in a range of career positions. The mix allows a wider reach into grasping what and how to best promote the Jacksonville area.
JACVB Ex Officio Board Member Ginny Fanning, President of the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce, says, “I think one of the unique things about many Jacksonville organizations is that we serve on each other’s boards in various capacities, but it makes it nice to be able to support one another and be aware of what is going on. I think sometimes we take for granted what we have in Jacksonville, but there are a lot of things here for people. We have a lot to offer.”
Stephen Symons of Country Financial is new to his term, but not to Jacksonville. Symons states that, “As a lifetime resident of Jacksonville, I try to be civic-minded. With all the folks that we’ve lost over the years with different closings, the more reason that we can have to visit Jacksonville – the better. Even having lived here all my life, I was not aware of all the tourist attractions or possibilities. As a newer member addition to the Board, I am excited to become more involved.”
From new member Symons to the 25-year termed Ron Gray, it’s all about growing Jacksonville. Ron Gray, President of General Grierson Days, will step down from the JACVB Board in June of 2014, having been its President his first year with the Bureau. From when he began involvement in 1989 until today, Gray explains that, “I’ve always felt that this agency has a tremendous economic impact on Jacksonville by promoting tourism and events. It’s truly one of the purest investments in economic business that you can make, because every nickel you spend brings business to Jacksonville. Promoting historic Jacksonville is huge for the business economy of Jacksonville – there is a trickle down effect.”
The JACVB President Elect is Karen Mudd. Mudd has been a part of the board in assorted capacities over most of the last 15 years and acts as General Manager for Blackhawk Village Inn while also employed as the Business Manager by Midwest Property Management. Mudd “loves being a part of a group that is passionate about Jacksonville and all it has to offer.” Adds Mudd, “The JACVB and all of the groups and organizations it supports are important economically, as well as for fostering pride for the community we live in. I am always amazed to see the different events evolve and grow as the result of a few people with enthusiasm and an idea. I believe the Board is important as support, keeping the checks and balances in place and providing some guidance – but the work is all done by Brittany (Henry) and her staff…she has already done amazing things for the Bureau with limited resources.”
Serving a 3-year term on the Board is Kristin Van Aken Jamison, the Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Relations at Illinois College. Like Mudd, Jamison is passionate about Jacksonville, telling how she grew up in Jacksonville and feels she was given wonderful opportunities to grow. “As my husband and I raise our young family, I want my kids to have the same or better opportunities as they grow up in the community. I think it is important to support Jacksonville as much as possible,” says Jamison. She adds that as an employee of Illinois College, she understands “how the College positively impacts Jacksonville’s economy in terms of accommodating the needs of current students, faculty and staff. In addition, signature weekends at Illinois College, such as Homecoming, Commencement and Trustee Scholarship Weekend, bring thousands of alumni, friends and prospective students to our community each year who stimulate the economy by staying in our hotels, visiting restaurants, shops and more.”
Gwenn Eyer, past Board President and current member, accepted an original invite to serve on the Board, thinking it a great way to be directly involved in promoting tourism and bringing visitors to Jacksonville that would benefit many local businesses, including her own Blessings on State Bed & Breakfast. To Eyer, “Tourism as an industry refers not only to travel, but also to the places and activities that people experience while away from home.” Eyer moved to Jacksonville six years ago in order to access the Illinois School for the Deaf. Now she says, “I am invested in this community. As an Innkeeper, I act as concierge and I’m please to share with travelers all that or area offers. The Jacksonville area has lodging options from camping with Bluegrass to ‘glamping’ with weddings – and from hotels with pools and a quick hot breakfast to our luxury B & B with casually elegant suites. We have art shows and live theater, concerts and car races, dress-to-the-nines galas and Civil War reenactments. We have locally owned eateries or you can buy bbq from a food truck. We can bike or walk past a tremendous number of architectural styles or tour historic sites. Tourism provides experiences for travelers and those experience provide memories that last long after their trip ends. Our guest leave with an appreciation for the Jacksonville area and with plans to return.”
JACVB Ex Officio Board Member Judy Tighe, Executive Director of Jacksonville Main Street, says, “Tourism is more than out-of-town people staying in hotels. It’s the opportunity to sell your community to visitors, and boost local business in the process. Be it a one-day bus tour, a multi-day/multi-location visit, or attendance at a single event, tourism brings serious dollars in Jacksonville and gives all of us the opportunity to share our community’s best features to potential business owners, residents, and regular customers. It is a driving force in the economic development that is a big part of downtown revitalization.” Furthermore, having Board members “from a variety of backgrounds brings different perspectives on how we can best serve our community and better address critical issues and needs – and also create new opportunities that can benefit everyone. This is important so that we can all assist in providing information to the public about all the opportunities our town offers, plus develop new ways to help Jacksonville grow with tourism-related businesses and enterprises that support bringing visitors back again and again.”
Bonni Waters, Vice President of the Jacksonville Regional Economic Development Corporation (JREDC), currently serves in the Ex Officio capacity on the JACVB Board and has been a member since 2002, although the JREDC has been involved since the JACVB was formed. Waters agrees that tourism is very much a part of economic development, creating jobs and generating taxes and revenue for our businesses. “Tourism supports improved infrastructure,” says Waters, and it “generates new businesses, as well as increasing the quality of life. In partnership with many different organizations, we’ve become quite a progressive community. Yet, at the same time, we take pride in the preservation of our great history and diverse culture. For the JREDC, a vibrant community is a valuable asset as we market the community for prospective new business and industry.” Waters adds, “Who knows? Maybe one of those visitors wants to expand their existing business – or open a new one!”
The Board thinks bigger than just locally, too. Jacksonville can be a destination for visitors to the State of Illinois. Karla Stice, JACVB Treasurer and Assistant to Mayor Andy Ezard agrees, saying, “I’ve always had an interest in Jacksonville being a great play to live, work and play. My employment with the City of Jacksonville has given me a better understanding of how promoting tourism within a community is so vital for that community to thrive and create jobs. Through the great efforts of the JACVB and its Board, Jacksonville is being promoted throughout the State of Illinois, bringing more guests into the city, and creating more dollars for our local economy. We all wish Jacksonville to be a better place, and any part that I, or others, do for that purpose, is for the good of Jacksonville’s future.” As for the future of Jacksonville, there is apparent growth. Hampton Inn opened a new location here in 2006. Its General Manager, Michelle Foreman, has had a seat on the JACVB Board, becoming more active in participation over the last three years. Foreman says, “Our goal is to further the interests of all businesses in Jacksonville. When guests come to our hotel to visit Jacksonville, it’s our time to show off who we are, what we have to offer and how fun it is to be a part of this community. We have a lot of history here that people don’t know about, so it’s our job to get that information out.”
Monica Eoff, Director of Community Relations for Passavant Area Hospital, holds the current office of Secretary for the JACVB Board. She sums up well that “The Conventions and Visitor’s Bureau is charged with promoting local tourism, and more specifically, Jacksonville with its rich history. This promotion attracts visitors and generates revenue for our local economy. The JACVB plays a vital role in this process and is a catalyst in terms of generating tourism dollars that impact our community.” She credits a deeper involvement and understanding in our community as a great opportunity for herself to learn and grow, both professionally and personally. Eoff adds, “During my term on the Board, I’ve been very impressed at the many things the local office has accomplished under the direction of Brittany Henry, Executive Director. A strong and active Convention and Visitor’s Bureau is certainly a win for the Jacksonville community.”
I couldn’t agree more. Additional members of the 2013/2014 Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Board include Michael Langdon of Premier Bank and Mayor Andy Ezard.