By David Hotle, The JOURNAL
How do you top bringing a bicycle tour of about 20,000 plus people to town for a night? The Washington Chamber of Commerce topped bringing RAGBRAI to Washington in 2016 with becoming the meeting point for the state Chamber of Commerce meeting, putting out a magazine promoting Washington that was named one of the top three in the Midwest, and getting a hotel/motel tax approved that had been rejected twice before.
With less than a week until the end of 2017, Chamber director Michelle Redlinger looked back on the year as one with a great number of accomplishments. Recently, she spoke of the accomplishments of the tourism committee to the Washington City Council.
The Chamber started the year with a community magazine. The project was done entirely locally and the magazine showcased many assets in the community. It was nominated as a top three tourism publication in the Midwest. Redlinger said 5,000 copies were printed and distributed across the state.
With the help of the Washington City Council, the Chamber spearheaded the push to pursue a hotel/motel tax in the community. Redlinger said through the help of a dedicated volunteer task force, information was distributed, meetings were held and questions were answered. On Aug. 1, the vote was approved with a 75 percent vote in favor. Since then, the Chamber and the City have worked to create a fund administration committee to determine how to use the funds to best benefit the community.
During the yearly Summer Classic, the Chamber?s Flight line Live committee reached out to class reunions to create a unified weekend where Washington hosted class reunions. During the classic, six class reunions were hosted. Redlinger said the same is expected in 2018, with the addition of a reunion class from WACO.
A variety of training opportunities were hosted in the community, including the annual conference for Chambers from across the state. Members of chambers from other communities were given a tour of the State Theater, a driving tour through town, and a farm-to-table tour at Bob and Diane Gallagher?s farm.
The Chamber hosted a Marketing Reboot conference featuring marketing expert Kyle Sexton. There was also hospitality training.
The visitor and tourism arm of the Chamber created several new promotional opportunities. Ads were included in Our Iowa magazine, showing many assets of the community. Informational binders were placed throughout Lake Darling. There have also been vinyl banners placed along Highway 92.
Redlinger said the Chamber has been able tin interact with the community better than ever before. The Chamber?s Facebook page received an average of 1,174 likes in 2017. Currently there are 1,151 people following the Chamber on Facebook. Arson in 2017, the volunteer staff at the welcome center put in 2080 hours of time, which has a value of $24,14 per hour. This is $50,211 in donated time.
The next big update for the Chamber, which Redlinger hopes to see in place in about three years, is an LED update of the G36 sign.