When the Stone County Economic Development Partnership received $117,000 to spend on promoting socially distanced recreation, the funds had to be spent within the next three months. The organization acted quickly, and the “Good. Clean. Fun.” marketing campaign was born. EDP Executive Director Betsy Rowell believes the campaign helped bolster the local economy, preventing an expected shortfall for the agency. “We believe we’ve been very successful,” Rowell said of the marketing campaign. Last year, the Legislature allotted $14 million of CARES Act funds to the Mississippi Tourism Recovery Fund, which was dispersed to development and tourism organizations in the state. The grant came with very specific restrictions. The money could be spent sanitary on supplies and marketing“We didn’t have complete freedom to do what we wanted to do with the money,” said. “We had to abide by the restrictions.” The Legislature based the final amount of funding on previous tourism marketing efforts from the EDP. The EDP used the grant to purchase over 20 hand sanitizing stations for outdoor facilities, and cloth face masks to give away, making it easier for visitors to take precautions. Most funds went toward marketing.The EDP partnered with the marketing agency, Bread, LLC, to develop social media advertisements promoting recreational destinations like Flint Creek and the Tuxachanie area. “Good. Clean. Fun.” benefited businesses by directly promoting outdoor venues like Wild Acres, an animal park, and Williams Family Farms, where Neal and Amber Williams grow a pumpkin patch and corn maze each fall. Of course, locals have always enjoyed recreational areas. But “Good. Clean. Fun.” was designed for a larger audience. Stone County stood out as a cheaper, closer destination to tourists who may have canceled vacation plans this year because of the pandemic. “We were very consistent with the message,” Rowell said. Rowell believes the dollars had a domino effect on the rest of the county’s economy. The tourism industry brings in lodgers, diners, and shoppers to communities like Wiggins, which puts money in local pockets. After projecting a 15 percent revenue decrease last summer, the EDP met virtually on Monday, Feb. 8. and voted to increase the budget back to the pre-pandemic projections. “This has been very impactful for us,” Rowell said. “We’re back to where we were a year ago.” The EDP is currently reviewing analytics for marketing in the future. “I was amazed at the likes and the views,” she said. As the organization measures the campaign’s success, Rowell expects State leaders to fund the Recovery Tourism program another year. “I feel pretty confident that we will get additional dollars from the state,” she said. The first round of funding gave a very short time limit to spend it, but Rowell said the EDP has built a better plan in place for more. With more planning and time to spend, the EDP would like to stretch funding for as many projects as possible. “We certainly would have spread it out more,” she said. The EDP would like to use additional funds on local restaurants. “We should know
shortly,” Rowell said.