Putting the Open Sign Back Out: Five Questions for San Juan and Kane Counties
As cities and counties that rely on tourism cautiously navigate nearer toward normal, they need to rebuild consumer confidence. Service businesses are seeking help financially but also in how to assure people their places of business are safe to visit.
With those questions in mind, we caught up with three local economic development leaders to learn about two newly launched and collaboratively developed awareness campaigns – Kane County’s “Above and Beyond” and San Juan County’s “The San Juan Strong Promise.” Both counties began to deliver campaign materials to businesses last week.
Camille Taylor is executive director of the Kane County Office of Tourism, and Kelly Stowell is Economic Development director for Kane County. Natalie Randall is San Juan County’s director of Economic Development & Visitor Services.
Where did the idea for a branding campaign originate?
Camille – Kane County put together an ad hoc economic recovery and reentry team. As we were going through Version 2 of the Governor’s “Utah Leads Together” plan, we felt that public confidence was a major issue of re-opening the economy. It was clear that our businesses needed help navigating the transition and our visitors needed reassurance. We put together the creative materials in-house using some existing visual assets. We drew a lot of the text from the Governor’s plan, customizing it to our community’s needs and resources.
All the DMOs (destination marketing organizations) around the state work together and share ideas all the time. I emailed our materials around and said, “Here’s what we’re doing and you’re welcome to borrow it.”
Natalie – We had already, prior to COVID-19, launched a “San Juan Strong” economic development campaign so it was a matter of incorporating this new messaging into that framework. Camille and her team really did the leg work. We developed our creative in-house to match our look and feel, but we used a lot of the content Kane County had developed regarding business practices. The timing was great because a lot of our businesses really didn’t know what to do, and consumer confidence needs a lift.
What are some of the elements of the campaign?
Camille – We’re providing businesses with education, posters, social media content, and reusable face masks that are branded with “Abra Kanabra” – our area marketing theme – for employees to use. We have tent cards and sticky seals so a hotel can inform a guest that a thorough room cleaning has taken place and a restaurant can assure their customers the to-go meal has been prepared to the highest standards of hygiene.
Businesses have to complete a one-hour orientation that our Chamber of Commerce conducts before they get the materials. So far, we have 35 businesses signed up and more coming on board.
We’ve also placed ten handwashing and ten hand sanitizer stations around our downtown for visitors to use. Our health department has been good to work with – they’ve taken a very commonsense approach.
Kelly – I’d echo that. We started a weekly Wednesday Zoom call with the business community along with the Kanab Chamber to share information, work through problems, answer questions, and help businesses access resources. The Lieutenant Governor joined us this last Wednesday and Derek Miller joined this week. Kane County is buying a high-powered ultraviolet light system to help keep our jail and conference center sanitized.
Natalie – We’re working with the health department on posters, seals, and a certificate, which is basically an attestation form they can display to build consumer confidence. We’ve also ordered about 26,000 disposable face masks for businesses to use. Most of them are struggling with cash flow, so giving them a supply of personal protective equipment is critical right now. We’re distributing most of the material in locations in Monticello, Blanding, and Bluff, and shipping some to more remote businesses.
Our health department has conducted Zoom meetings to businesses in our three largest towns, answering questions, and they’re helping to distribute campaign materials and face masks.
What funding did you put together for these campaigns?
Camille – The branded employee face masks weren’t cheap. We didn’t do a spring campaign due to COVID-19 restrictions, so we were able to redeploy some of the funds we budgeted for that. As Natalie mentioned, it’s a small supply intended to help businesses get started.
Natalie – We had an American Express business grant that we were able to redirect. We also talked to GOED and were able to redirect some BEAR (business expansion and retention) funds.
Some rural community leaders are worried that while their businesses will comply with health guidelines but some of their visitors will not. What’s your take on this?
Camille – We know this is something we have to work on. In our campaign, we’re asking something of businesses and we’re asking something of customers. Our number one goal is to protect our residents as we welcome visitors back. Educating visitors is part of that effort with the Above and Beyond Promise campaign that we are blasting out, in the hope they’ll cooperate with hygiene and safety measures.
Natalie – Everyone wants to reopen in a safe way. We need a clear and concise message for businesses, so they aren’t confused. We also need a consistent message repeated to visitors across the entire state. It’s important that the messaging be the same, so people know what to expect no matter where they are visiting.
Camille – We collaborate with other DMOs because we have shared visitors. We benefit from working together. I’ve also been pleased by the positive reaction we’re getting from businesses about the campaign. We’re hearing, “We’re on board. What do we do?” Our businesses are creating social media posts, expanding on the content, and amplifying the message to their customers. That will help educate visitors and get the word out.
What else should our readers know about what’s going on in your counties?
Kelly – COVID-19 is having a much bigger negative impact on our businesses than on our local health care system. There have been few cases overall in Kane County.
Kane County was able to repurpose Business Expansion And Retention (BEAR) funds into business relief grants. We also had one of our largest organizations, Best Friends Animal Society, donate $225,000 to help our small businesses which is a huge deal. It is quite significant to have them inject this funding into the local community.
We formed an application review committee that includes people from Best Friends, so they are not just writing a check, they are actively involved in the funding decisions. I’ve already heard from one business that this kind of funding might be what gets them through this crisis.
Natalie – We are a tale of two counties. In San Juan County half of our county, which includes the Navajo Nation, has been substantially impacted with cases – with only a few cases trickling into the other half. Businesses countywide have been significantly impacted, but are poised and ready to re-open under this new normal.
In the current state we are seeing unified efforts arising from our communities and between businesses across the county's 7,933 square miles supporting one another's efforts. We are humbled to see how our local businesses have embraced collective collaboration, and it has been our pleasure to support these efforts – from a business-driven San Juan Strong t-shirt campaign to shop local competitions to a mutual aid outreach effort. We are learning that it is only if we work together that we are able to be San Juan Strong.
We've been working on a vlog series "San Juan Strong Innovation" showcasing our business community, their innovative practices, and how they've pivoted through COVID-19. Though in part a response to COVID-19 it is also an effort to further showcase why San Juan County is a great place to live, play, and do business. The teaser is going live this weekend with the first episode: https://bit.ly/3bSNk75