Sales and marketing job description sent to consultant

The Wayne County Fairgrounds is a county asset that provides revenue, and county officials would like to take better advantage of that opportunity.

With a concentrated effort to update, renovate and repair the fairgrounds, the county hopes it becomes more attractive for rentals that generate enough revenue to make the fairgrounds self-sufficient. That effort received a major boost this year when First Bank Richmond agreed to a 10-year, $1 million naming rights deal. The county received the initial $100,000 payment this fall.

Already underway when that naming-rights deal was finalized, a $430,558 project to repair and update the First Bank Kuhlman Center and First Bank Expo Hall exteriors is nearly complete.

Both buildings have been painted blue and gray, providing continuity. First Bank signage adorns three sides of the Expo Hall and stretches above the front entrance of Kuhlman Center.

A digital sign has been completed at the Salisbury Road entrance, with the county and First Bank splitting the $36,650 cost. First Bank’s sign contribution is in addition to its naming-rights payment.

Sidewalk and landscaping projects totaling $35,948 outside Expo Hall are also completed, but another project renovating the driveway and parking area will not be finished until spring.

Other projects prioritized for 2023 include HVAC systems for Kuhlman Center and Expo Hall and roof projects for Kuhlman Center and the horse barn. They total $741,500.

Work also continues on redesigning the fairgrounds website. That coincides with the county planning to hire a sales and marketing coordinator for the fairgrounds. Both are expected to help attract new rentals.

Commissioners and council members Dec. 21 approved sending the new position’s job description to the county’s consultant, Waggoner Irwin Scheele & Associates in Muncie, for classification and salary evaluation. The vote was 5-1 vote after a lengthy discussion about the value of hiring the role now.

Tony Gillam voted against undergoing the evaluation at this time, citing the lack of a comprehensive fairgrounds plan moving forward. Other council members thought the new position will be a necessary first step.

“We’re talking about making it more self-sufficient out there, but that can’t happen until we give them the tools,” council member Max Smith said. “This is one of those tools.”

Council worked with Mary Walker, executive director of Wayne County Convention and Tourism Bureau, to clarify the position’s qualifications and responsibilities. The bureau, funded by local innkeepers` tax money, has helped arrange fairgrounds rentals related to its attraction of hotel business.

Beth Leisure, council’s 2022 president, said the tourism bureau shouldn’t be responsible for the fairgrounds.

“Their job is to help book hotels, not run the fairgrounds for us,” she said. “Their job is to get heads in beds.”

In a previous vote, council did unanimously approve hiring a grant administrator who will seek out, apply for and administer grants new to the county. The hope is the position, which is included in the 2023 budget, will attract enough new grants to pay for itself through the administration amounts grants generally include. That position’s salary was set at $56,445.

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Mike Emery is a reporter and layout editor for the Western Wayne News.