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Middlesex taking steps to attract tourists, businesses

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Middlesex County hopes to attract visitors and businesses via its website visitmiddlesex.org. Above, economic and tourism development director Chris Ingram displays the home page. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

The Middlesex Economic Development Authority (EDA) is looking for ways to promote the county’s unique attributes to tourists and businesses.

The EDA’s endorsement is just one part of a concerted effort being fostered by the Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Council (EDTAC).

Since becoming the county’s economic and tourism development director on August 26, Christen “Chris” Ingram helped build a website at visitmiddlesexva.org, which lists lodging, restaurants, boating tours, a calendar of events, and much more.

Also, Ingram has created a Middlesex presence on yesvirginia.org, a website that lists available commercial and industrial properties for sale or lease. The listing has a national and international presence, Ingram told the EDA at its November 14 meeting. Among the Middlesex properties listed at the website is the former Parvin’s Market at Locust Hill.

Middlesex is attempting to increase its presence in the state tourism publication, the VA Travel Guide, by purchasing a large ad for $7,000. The Urbanna Town Council and the Deltaville Community Association have each agreed to contribute $1,000 toward the cost. Of the amount paid by the Town of Urbanna, $250 will be used for a marketing leverage grant that will be sought in the spring of 2014 to recover some of the cost of the ad, Ingram explained. 

“Oyster Trail”
Middlesex County has been invited to partner with Lancaster County on the development of an “Oyster Trail” similar to the “Northern Neck Wine Trail,” Ingram explained. She has been contacting local businesses in the oyster industry as well as watermen interested in signing up for “tourism training” through Rappahannock Community College.

The  Economic Development and Tourism Advisory Council will meet on Wednesday, December 18, at 5:30 p.m. in the historic courthouse in Saluda. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend, said Ingram. 

The members of the Middlesex Tourism Council include Tom Feigum, John Fleet Jr., Ed Ruark, Marilyn South, Keith Ruse, Carolyn Schmalenberger, Louis Belcher, Jack Miller and Phil Mullen. Mullen will be replaced by Michael Lowe on January 1, 2014 on both the EDTAC and the EDA.

Ingram has been taking a community inventory of the assets and attributes of Middlesex, such as water access. Once this is completed, a Middlesex Tourism Plan will be developed. Then the county can apply for tourism grants, she said. 
County administrator Matt Walker said visitors are looking for an “authentic experience” when they visit areas, and Middlesex has natural resources that people want.

He explained that the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is interested in partnering with Middlesex and the Chesapeake Bay Public Access Authority in improving a boat ramp at the end of Stamper’s Bay Road near Hartfield.
Half of Ingram’s salary is funded by the EDA. 

EDA chair Phil Allan noted that tourism is the EDA’s second priority, right behind developing water and sewer service.

Jim Pyne, director of the Hampton Roads Sanitation District Small Communities Division, will update the Middlesex Board of Supervisors at its meeting on January 7 at 3 p.m. in the historic courthouse.

posted 12.05.2013

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