The new year will usher in a new function of Gainesville government as the city takes on its own tourism marketing and control of downtown revival.
During the past few months, the city cut funding first for the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main Street Gainesville, with the intention of using the funds to have its own employees head the marketing of tourism and facility rentals as well as coordination of downtown events.
And by the beginning of the year, the new city-run department should begin to take shape.
The city is currently taking applications for its new tourism and facilities sales manager, and will probably start advertising for a new Main Street manager after the first of the year, said City Manager Kip Padgett. Both positions come with salaries in the mid to low $40,000 range, Padgett said.
And the new division of the City Manager’s Office, Communications and Tourism, moved into the old Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau office earlier this month.
The city’s new government-operated Main Street program will essentially pick up where the original, business-led Main Street program left off, Padgett said. Though the city-run department will have a new board that is about one-third the size of the original board and will be appointed by the City Council, much of the same downtown events that were held before, such as Blue Sky Concerts, will still exist, Padgett said.
"Downtown Gainesville looks great, but we just really want to work even harder to bring the right businesses to downtown and hopefully have even more events," said Catiel Felts, director of the Communications and Tourism department. "... It’s just to do even more of those kinds of events and make downtown Gainesville even more successful."
But with the city government’s guidance, Main Street’s focus also will be on the redeveloping midtown area of Gainesville, Felts said.
"Once Main Street and downtown Gainesville became more attractive ... the people knew we were serious and that we were going to invest in downtown, and it made sense for them to invest in downtown," Felts said. "We’re really going to take the same kind of attitude and approach for the midtown area."
Another division of Felts’ new department will take control of the marketing of tourism and the rental of city facilities, a function the Lake Lanier CVB was once responsible for.
The future convention and facilities sales manager will be in charge of bringing conventions and meetings to Gainesville facilities, such as the Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center and the Georgia Mountains Center, Felts said.
The new employee also will work to bring events to the Olympic rowing venue and other facilities not owned by the city as well as market less popular city attractions, Felts said.
"We want to look at some of the things that we think have been underutilized, like the Solar System tour," Felts said. "It’s my understanding that there are very few, if any, of those in the United States so we think that could be a real selling point for Gainesville."
But despite the fact that the city has severed financial ties with the CVB and created its own tourism marketing department, Felts said the new city department will work closely with the CVB on some projects such as the large fishing tournament next summer and also to coordinate scheduling of events.
"The main goal is just to bring more business into Gainesville, get more business to our hotels and also, to continue to have a vibrant downtown," Padgett said.
CVB president Stacey Dickson did not return a call seeking comment for this story.