With spring in the air and the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament set to draw thousands to LaGrange just three weeks away, the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce celebrated tourism at its monthly breakfast on Tuesday.
“We’re excited about coming back to this area,” said Keith Poche, Bassmaster Elite Series fisherman. The Bassmaster tournament is on West Point Lake on May 2-4. “It was a great event in 2011.”
Tourism in Troup county employs 1,130 people, according to statistics provided by the chamber. Tourism saves each Troup County household $744 in state and local taxes, the chamber said, and on an average day in Troup County, tourists spend $383.917 on tourism-related expenses.
The chamber also presented its annual tourism awards. Penny Smart, reservations specialist at Explorations in Antiquity, won the Service Star award. That award goes to a “front line” employee that gives legendary customer service.
The tourism Visionary award this year went to the three women who first organized the Azalea Storytelling Festival. The award is for a person or persons who played a vital role in tourism product development.
“These women have worked tirelessly for 18-plus years to build a nationally-recognized tourism product for Troup County,” said Laura Jennings, tourism director. “They helped increase visitation and tourism expenditures in Troup County by offering a unique event. This grass-roots effort, which started small 18 years ago, has grown into an event that was selected as one of the Top 20 Tourism Events in the Southeast by the Southeast Tourism Association. The tremendous success of this event is because of the tenacity of three women who are being honored this morning – the founders of the festival – Pat Gay, Dr. Evelyn Jordan and Joyce Morgan-Young.
Maggie Potter, tourism project manager for the region under the Georgia Department of Community Development, praised local efforts to bring tourism to LaGrange and Troup County, including the “camera ready” certification.
“That certification is like an online location scout,” she said. Producers looking for sites to shoot movies, television or music videos can go to the state’s websites and see particulars about a county without having to come in person.
Potter said Georgia is ideal for film making because the state has all four seasons and all kinds of geography, including beaches, mountains and farms. The state also gives a 20 percent tax rebate to producers who shoot in Georgia.
The movie-making has a direct impact on the local economy with participants staying in hotels and eating at restaurants, she said.