Dr. Don Altieri appeared before the TDA, saying that for several months now, a small core group of people has been working on plans to help promote the county to those who may be visiting the Charlotte area for the convention.
"They're expecting around 36,000 people," Altieri said. "And many of them may remain the surrounding areas. Of course, there's lots to do in Charlotte but we think that we have a lot to offer in Anson County, too."
The group has created the slogan "Destination: Anson County," he added, and would like to use it as a program to draw visitors to the county before, during and after the convention. After all, Charlotte hosts conventions all the time, he said, so there is a market to draw from.
"This has absolutely nothing to do with politics," Altieri explained. "We want people to come here as a destination and spend dollars in our local economy."
"Destination: Anson County" will probably focus a great deal on Anson's historical and agricultural attractions, and Altieri said the group hopes that a visitor's center can be established somewhere along the Highway 74 corridor, most likely in Wadesboro.
So far, the group, which also includes County Manager Lawrence Gatewood, has worked to improve the "Welcome to Anson County" signs and will place new welcome signs at the northern, southern, western and eastern borders of the county soon. The group is also working with churches on Salisbury Street in Wadesboro to improve the aesthetic appeal of that area, Altieri said.
In the meantime, Altieri also said he hopes that some businesses will serve as "interim" visitors centers and provide a rack of brochures to help promote the county as a tourism destination.
Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge manager J.D. Bricken said that he recently traveled to Wisconsin for a conference and decided to drive around and look at some of the dairy farms there, only to end up not seeing very many dairy farms. "A map like they have at the Chamber would've been perfect for something like that," he pointed out.
"Charlotte and the Matthews area are doing a lot ... that we can't compete with, so we need to focus on our agricultural heritage and our countryside," said TDA chair Nancy Cornwell.
Bricker agreed, saying that Anson should focus on its peacefulness, compared to the hustle and bustle of Charlotte, especially with the convention coming up.
County Commission Chair Anna Baucom said she would love for all of the fast food and gas station workers to take a course in hospitality before the convention. "At a time like this," she said, "we are all ambassadors. Someone could be driving through and decide this would be the perfect place to start a business. We don't need anyone discouraging them from that."
Altieri said he would go back to the group and in the future, come to the TDA with a specific request for funding or other support.
In other business, the TDA board unanimously approved a motion to provide $700 to fund Smith's trip to the governor's conference March 11-13.
Baucom also notified the TDA that the county commissioners will soon take up the issue of a new agri-civic center, which has been in discussion for about six years but is finally poised to move forward. "It will take the support of the community to get this done," she said. "It will open a lot of doors for activities and events that we're not able to do now."
She specifically mentioned that she hates the fact that Anson High School students have to go outside the county for their senior prom. She added that Union County's center hosted 197 events last year, and more than 90 came from Anson County.
Bricken gave a report on the status of Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge, saying that his staff has been cut from eight to 3.5, but he still has hopes for several upcoming budget projects, including a visitors center that has been "tentatively approved" for 2013.
In old business, Smith stated that the art contest the TDA is helping to promote so far hasn't received any entries but that it also did not have a deadline. He reminded the group of the Writers Club's Storyteller festival and annual writers conference on April 13 and 14.