TAF formed to support heritage tourism sites

Mar. 08, 2013 @ 05:16 AM

The  Bechtler House Feasibility Study is a part of an ongoing  range of studies the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) plans to establish in the future to bring awareness of heritage tourism across the county.

The Bechtler House is the first of the heritage projects TDA is focusing on in order to keep the historic house intact as a museum. The plans come on the heels of the museum being open for the past year as part of the Town of Rutherfordton’s 225th anniversary celebration.

The house, located on West Sixth Street, features Bechtler artifacts that includes the original press from the 1830s. The press came from the Federal Reserve in New York and is on a renewable five-year loan from the American Numismatic Society.

To help implement the heritage tourism plans,TDA last Thursday approved the creation of a Tourism Asset Foundation (TAF) to raise money to fund the historic sites across the county.

According to Michelle Yelton, who wrote the study, the TAF will focus on three major areas of tourism growth — history and heritage, outdoors and agriculture — to ensure these assets are adequately developed throughout the county to enhance the county’s tourism economy as a whole.

One of TDA’s three goals on the 2012-2013 strategic plans was to determine how to  deliver on Bechtler asset developments.

Rutherfordton Town Council agreed Monday night, in concept,that  it will support the purchase of the Bechtler House through money raised by TAF.

TAF’s board could include two TDA board members/representatives and non-board stakeholders form other tourism areas across the county.

TAF could be responsible for managing funds held in the foundation, granting funds for the development of county tourism assets, developing the process by which grants are awarded and implemented; overseeing and working with TDA staff or contractor appointed to implement the funds and execute project goals and objects; and maintain a smaller balance of funds for projects in need of minimal funding.

Once a project is chosen for the particular year, the projects for the following year could be simultanelously selected and placed on the study, Yelton explained.

The TAF board would serve as Rutherford County’s tourism industry by providing financial and staff support for projects that cannot be implemented because of lack of resources.

Immediate taks for TAF could include developing a mission statement and marketing/fundraising materials for the Bechtler campaign and TAF,  fundraising and forming local and regional partnerships.

TDA will also assign one parttime employee or contractor to implement the plans for the annual TAF project including seeking grants applicable for project development, working with TAF to develop plans and strategies based on project needs and organizing fundraising events and soliciting donors.

Last week TDA allocated $25,000 in seed money to get the TAF up and running. Yelton will serve as  the coordinator.

“Bechtler left us this legancy . . .now it is our time to do something with it,” Yelton told Rutherfordton Town Council Wednesday night when she presented the plan.

She said the TAF 501 (c) 3 will fund tourism assets across the county, including historic trails, outdoors . . we will start with the Bechtler House but will make sure all county assets are represented on the board.