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Virginia’s Retreat, Rails to Trails project win funds / November 28, 2012
Two Mecklenburg County projects — Virginia’s Retreat for $25,000 and Roanoke River Rails to Trails, Inc. for $1,549 — received grants from the Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Marketing Leverage Grant program. The grants help local and regional tourism entities attract more visitors by leveraging local marketing dollars.

In all, Gov. Bob McDonnell awarded more than $543,000 in matching grant funds to 37 local tourism initiatives

Mecklenburg County will serve as the fiscal agent for the Virginia’s Retreat Grant, according to Economic Development director Angie Kellett. However, the money will be used to increase visitation to trails and recreational opportunities in eleven Southside Virginia counties: Amelia, Appomattox, Brunswick, Buckingham, Charlotte, Dinwiddie, Halifax, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, Nottoway, Prince Edward, and the City of Petersburg, through enhanced advertising and web presence.

Kellett said the money would be spent in three main areas: to increase advertising in national periodicals for Virginia’s Retreat, to continue with the redesign and development of a new, interactive website, and to redesign and reprint the Virginia Retreat brochure.

Virginia’s Retreat was organized in 1993 to promote “an area rich in historical, cultural and outdoor recreational adventures.” One of its first historical adventures was the “Civil War Driving Trail” which features the route of Lee’s Retreat from the siege at Petersburg to his surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

The Roanoke River Rails To Trails, Inc. will also use its award to improve its web presence. Heather Susee with Virginia Tourism Corporation said thanks to the grant money, the Roanoke River Rails To Trails will be able to make a the web site that is much more user friendly and interactive.

Initially the site was designed for contractors during the first phase of construction for the Tobacco Heritage Trail, Susee said. Now with the trail open in parts of Halifax, Brunswick, and Mecklenburg counties, they needed to direct the information on their web page toward hikers and other trail users.

McDonnell called Virginia’s tourism “an instant revenue generator,” and claimed the Virginia generated over $20.4 billion in revenue in 2011 and “supported 207,000 jobs and provided $1.32 billion in state and local taxes.” Dollars invested in tourism are proven to provide a 5:1 return in tax revenue for Virginia, and the grant awards and matching funds provide a stimulus to localities seeking to increase tourism visitation and revenue.”

“These grants help enable local tourism partners undertake projects that might otherwise be beyond their fiscal reach, “said Rita McClenny, president and CEO of the Virginia Tourism Corporation. “I see our Marketing Leverage Grants program as something that creates opportunity and breeds the kind of success that can only be achieved by people working together.”

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