EXETER — The Exeter Business Improvement Area (BIA) recently announced the opening of a multi-use South Huron Welcome Centre on Exeter's Main Street.
The centre, at 483 Main St. in the former Bridal Elegance location, is open Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., with expanded hours and a grand opening to come in the fall.
Involved in the centre are the BIA, Conestoga College Career Services, a mini-art gallery run by the Art aRound Town group, displays from the Exeter and Area Heritage Foundation, and the Southern Tourism Gateway, which is a partnership between the BIA, South Huron and Huron County.
Brittany Fry of Huron County Tourism is the project co-ordinator for the Southern Tourism Gateway project, which is a pilot project and could see the county expand tourism “gateways” at other locations in Huron.
Exeter BIA chairperson James Eddington told the Times-Advocate last week that it was always on the BIA's agenda to eventually have a building and hire a staffer to manage the BIA.
The staffer isn’t in place yet because Eddington said the BIA is working to ensure it has financing in place. In the meantime, BIA members are volunteering to help things run.
Eddington spoke of the positives of having a hired person — he said there has been progress in Exeter and goals have been met since MainStreets Exeter co-ordinator Mark Cassidy came on board (the MainStreets project ends next year).
Eddington said the timing was right for the BIA to move forward with a welcome centre which he said has the goal of benefiting not just the businesses, but the entire community. The intent, Eddington said, is that the centre will be a resource that will help grow Exeter and its surrounding area. He said the Welcome Centre gives people a place to go for information. Out-of-towners looking for accommodations for seniors, for example, could visit the centre to find out about seniors' condos in the area.
And Eddington said the building, which he owns, is in a great location at the Main and Huron intersection.
In the future, Eddington said tickets to local events will be sold at the centre. According to a press release, Huron County maps, tourism and event information will be added.
In addition to the Art aRound Town art gallery featured in the centre, the Exeter and Area Heritage Foundation will display historical items starting in October. There is also a gift shop open on Tuesdays featuring local artists, photographers and authors.
Regarding the Southern Tourism Gateway project, a press release states the County of Huron Economic Development Partnership, the Municipality of South Huron and the Exeter BIA are investing $12,000 into the pilot project.
The release states, “The pilot project will create the strategy to develop tourism gateways across Huron County, beginning with South Huron, which is home to some of the county's busiest highways that bring tourists to the area.”
The project will analyze South Huron's tourism assets, products and infrastructure, looking at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats; develop tourism packages for local businesses and attractions; expand marketing for South Huron and Huron businesses; promote use of a new online tourism reservation system for things such as packages, dining, shopping and accommodation in Huron, Perth and Wellington counties and Waterloo Region; and research the methods used by other tourism gateways.
A report on the project will be done by January 2013.
According to the press release, “This project will help to brand South Huron as the southern gateway to Ontario's west coast.”
As project co-ordinator, Fry brings a wealth of tourism experience. She has served as the co-ordinator of Huron's Event and Social Awareness, the Huron-Perth Good Food Box and the Taste of Huron event. She also helped organize the “Out of the Storm” fundraiser for Goderich and Benmiller.