Chamber chalks up 2018 wins, previews 2019 for members at annual meeting

Staff writer

The Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance touted the 2019 Commemoration, American Evolution event and progress made by its Tourism Council and Business Council during its annual members meeting Thursday.

As the 400th anniversary of events critical to the development of the United States that took place in Virginia, 2019 is expected to be a big year, one that brings a “national spotlight” to the region, said Jeanne Zeidler, chairwoman of the alliance board of directors.

The 2019 Commemoration recognizes the first meeting of a representative legislature in English North America in 1619, as well as the first recorded arrival of Africans in English North America and the first major recruitment push to bring English women to the Jamestown Colony.

As such, Jamestown Settlement will be a main stage for the year-long, state-wide commemoration, which features more than 20 exhibitions and partnerships with more than 50 organizations.

“2019 marks the 400th anniversary of pivotal 1619 Virginia events that we would say forever changed the trajectory of Virginia and America’s history,” said Phil Emerson, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation executive director .

“After Angelo” features academic conferences and live performances of blues and jazz music in honor of African-American women Feb. 23 at Jamestown Settlement. Angelo was among the first recorded African arrivals to English North America. In March, a lecture series focused on women in early American history will kick off and performances of the original play “Mother Tongue” will begin in May.

The museum will unveil its gallery renovation this summer. The more than $10 million project adds more technology, a new film about Bacon’s Rebellion and new historical research to the museum, as well as more information about Native Americans and Africans, Emerson said.

The alliance’s Tourism Council approved a $8.5 million budget in December, which will power its inaugural marketing campaign in the coming year. The Tourism Council also voted to create a development fund expected to have $1.6 million and a reserve of $750,000.

The Tourism Council is tasked with marketing the region to overnight tourists.

The Tourism Council’s search for its executive director is underway, and the first round of interviews with candidates is expected to take place in February, Tourism Council board chairman Jeff Wassmer said.

The Tourism Council expects to bring in more than $16 million in 2019 — $2.1 million from its share of the $2 transient occupancy tax, $12.6 million from its share of the 1-percent sales tax increase created by Senate Bill 942 and $1.6 million in direct fund allocations from Williamsburg, James City and York, Wassmer said.

After allocating money to the marketing budget and funds, the Tourism Council will have a little over $5 million left to play with, and that money will likely be allocated toward marketing efforts, Wassmer said.

Terry Banez, the Business Council’s interim executive director, updated the membership on the newly created entity’s activity last year and what’s in store for the year to come. The Business Council focuses on developing and promoting business in the region, and was created as part of an alliance restructuring effort.

The Business Council added 90 members to its roster in 2018, bringing the total membership to 667 businesses and other organizations in Williamsburg, James City and York.

The Business Council has made progress with its social media presence, adding 358 new Facebook followers to a total of just over 3,000, Banez said, adding that the Business Council wants to make its Facebook page the one-stop shop for information about events on the region’s calendar.

The Business Council held 35 networking events and 23 ribbon cuttings to welcome businesses such as Publix and Earth Fare to the area in 2018.

In 2019, the Business Council intends to focus on workforce development and networking for the area’s young business professionals, Banez said.

“We’re really focused on workforce development,” Banez said, calling it a frequent request among area businesses.

Awards

The alliance announced the winners of four awards at the meeting.

  • Chris Harris, of Refuse Ordinary, won Ambassador of the Year.
  • Ron Campana, of Campana Waltz Commercial Real Estate, won Membership Star of the Year.
  • Scott Grafton, of Iron-Bound Gym, won Health Promoter of the Year.
  • Phil Emerson, of Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation, won the Roll of the Drum Award.

Jack Jacobs, 757-298-6007, jojacobs@vagazette.com, @jajacobs_

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