CCEDC Tourism seeks public input

From staff reports

The Clarion County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) is excited to announce the commencement of the community engagement phase, a critical early step in its broader initiative to develop Clarion County’s destination brand and marketing strategy.

This phase marks an important next step in the CCEDC’s ongoing efforts to enhance the county’s appeal as both a tourist destination and a vibrant place to live and work.

Community Engagement: A Key to Authentic Branding

Community engagement is pivotal in building a brand strategy that resonates with Clarion County’s unique values, characteristics, and amenities. This approach ensures the creation of an authentic and enriching experience for visitors. Jarred Heuer, the CCEDC’s Executive Director, emphasized by stating, “Our goal is to engage in meaningful conversations with our community and identify the unique qualities that make Clarion County stand out. These community insights will form the core values for crafting a compelling narrative, which will represent a community-driven brand.”

A Strategic Approach Rooted in Local Insights

The journey to develop a community-driven branding initiative began over a year ago as part of the CCEDC’s 2030 Economic Development Strategy. In December 2022, the CCEDC launched the Destination Improvement Initiative (DII). This initiative involved forming a tourism stakeholder committee to analyze Clarion County’s tourism industry and devise a plan to modernize its approach to tourism marketing.

Acknowledging the visitor economy’s importance to the county’s growth and sustainability, the committee wanted to evaluate resource usage, understand external trends, and build consensus on a future-oriented strategy. This comprehensive effort led to a federal grant awarded through the Appalachian Regional Commission in April 2023 to develop a Destination Brand and Marketing Plan for Clarion County.

In September 2023, after an extensive bid and interview process, Bull Moose Marketing was chosen as the consulting agency to guide the county in developing their destination brand. This collaboration included outlining a comprehensive community engagement plan, using multiple outreach tactics to help ensure broad participation by stakeholders.

Deep Community Involvement: The Role of Clarion County Residents

According to Heuer, listening to the Clarion County community and capturing its essence is vital.

“Our original 2030 strategy was heavily informed by our community, so this specific branding identity and marketing strategy allows us to delve deeper towards fostering a sustainable local economy,” said Heuer.

Hind Karns, the newly appointed Tourism Director, echoes the importance of community participation, “Destination branding is an integral part of our marketing strategy. It shapes a unique identity of Clarion County in the minds and memories of visitors. To achieve this and set Clarion County up for success, we need the community’s involvement.”

The engagement plan encompasses both active and passive outreach tactics. Active engagement will involve direct interactions with the community through scheduled meetings, events, and group forums, while passive methods include an online brand survey for the public to take. The survey can be found at the Clarion County Tourism Office’s website, visitclarionco.org, to which new features and functionality will be added in the coming months.

All area businesses, organizations, residents, past visitors, and students are encouraged to participate in the survey and share it with others.

Economic Implications and Future Prospects

“A destination brand is integral to the region’s growth,” Heuer notes. “This engagement plan, focusing on stakeholder input, underscores how tourism and economic development are deeply intertwined, offering potential to strengthen the local economy through a robust community brand.”

The community engagement efforts will continue through spring 2024, with the final brand strategy and marketing plan expected by early summer. In the meantime, the Clarion County Tourism Office will begin coordinating the necessary efforts to actively promote the area. The public is encouraged to follow their social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram as @visitclarionco or the hashtags #BrandingClarionCounty and #VisitClarionCounty.

The Clarion County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) is dedicated to fostering economic growth and development in Clarion County. Through innovative strategies and collaborative efforts, CCEDC aims to enhance the quality of life for its residents and create a welcoming environment for visitors.