Funds will pay for billboards on Highway 99 and I-5 promoting Taft

Efforts to bolster the local visitor industry received a significant boost earlier this month when the Kern County Board of Supervisors approved $100,000 worth of financial assistance through its popular Tourism Promotion Grant Program.

Three $10,000 grants were awarded and one of those will be used to promote Taft and the West Side.

The Taft Chamber of Commerce will receive one of the three $10,000 grants to support billboard campaign along I-5 and Highway 99.Taft Chamber executive Director Kathy Orrin said the chamber will be using the billboards to get the word out to travelers about Taft.

"It will be for tourism but also reflect that Taft is ope for business," Orrin said.

This is the third time the chamber has received the $10,000 grant, the largest warded by the county.
"We were pretty excited to get it again," Orrin said.

The chamber is going to work on making its message shorter and clearer, Orrin said.

The other $10,000 grant recipients are the Tehachapi Tourism Commission, which was awarded funding to support out-of-county advertising for their Gran Fondo cycling event scheduled for 2014 and the Pine Mountain Club C.P.O.A., which was awarded funding to support several annual events.

It is anticipated that awards for the 2014 grant cycle will be dispersed to recipients in January on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, who approved the awards.

Now in its 13th year, the program has provided 263 grants totaling $1,865,000 since its inception in 2001.

The program is administered by the Kern County Board of Trade on behalf of the Supervisors.

Tourism is one of the primary economic pillars of Kern County's economy.

According to the last statewide economic impact report for tourism, the value of visitor spending within Kern County was close to $1.3 billion annually.

The focus of this year's grant was once again direct marketing aimed at out-of-county visitors. The Board of Trade received 16 grant applications, of which 14 received either full or partial funding. Eligibility was limited to non-profit organizations with marketing projects designed to increase the number of tourists coming to Kern County or lengthen their stay. Awards were capped at $10,000 per project or organization. Requests were evaluated by an independent committee.

Grants supporting promotion of specific events included $8,445 to the Fox Theater Foundation to support the second annual "Outside the Box" film festival. $8,000 for advertising the second annual "Nut Festival" sponsored by the Kern County Museum Foundation, $6,000 to promote the Center of the World Festival, $5,655 to support the annual Ridge Route Run Car Show Marketing hosted by the Frazier Mountain Car Club, $2,800 to aid the Frazier Mountain FOCUS Central, Inc.'s Five-Day Theatrical Production.

Additional grants awarded for general visitor awareness programs included: $9,800 to the Kern River Valley Chamber for cinema and print advertising; $9,000 to the Kernville Chamber of Commerce to attend trades shows and to support radio, internet, and direct mail marketing; $3000 to California City for various event marketing; $9,800 to Friends of Jawbone OHV organization to purchase tourism-loaded tablets for the 2014 Pow Wow; $1,000 to the Ridge Route Communities Museum for brochures; and $6,500 to the Buena Vista Museum of Natural History for brochures.

The California Travel and Tourism Commission put total visitor spending statewide at $80.7 billion during the last reporting period, with $1.3 billion of that in Kern County. Visitor spending is credited with sustaining almost 13,000 Kern County jobs with over $318 million in payroll, providing $76.6 million in tax revenue including $16.2 million paid to the County and local cities -- primarily through sales and lodging taxes.