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Tourism bureau seeking director



Published: Wed, June 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



The bureau's Web site still is unavailable to the public.

YOUNGSTOWN -- The Mahoning County Convention and Visitors Bureau is looking for an executive director.

At the bureau's Tuesday meeting, Suzanne Heino, the CVB board's administrator, said the time has come to have someone working 40 hours a week to answer phones and coordinate the bureau's activities.

Heino said she cannot fill the executive director's job.

Commissioner Anthony Traficanti, a CVB board member, said the commissioners posted the position last week.

Commissioner David Ludt, also a board member, said the job would pay close to $36,000 or maybe a little less. He added the commissioners hope to start the interview process shortly.

The CVB is funded through the 3 percent lodging tax. The bureau gets one percent of that revenue with the remainder supporting the Western Reserve Port Authority.

Attracting tourists

Heino reported the public relations firm of Rubenstein Associates, Liberty, has volunteered to design the CVB's brochures, which would have a distinctive logo, at no cost.

Once the prototype is completed, she said she will give it to the commissioners for their approval. A total of 50,000 would be printed and distributed to all the county's hotels and motels and other venues.

She solicited bids from four companies to print the brochures, and the board discussed using City Printing Co. of Youngstown for the job.

The bureau's Web site is still not up and running. The county's data processing board in April said it would handle that matter, but that hasn't happened, Heino said.

Traficanti said he's tired of waiting on the site's development and said if data processing doesn't get it done soon, "we may have to go another route."

George McCloud, Youngstown State University's special assistant for university advancement and a board member, offered the university's service to develop the bureau's Web site.

Heino said the Web site would be an aid to visitors seeking information on the county and its attractions.

She said other visitor-friendly items the bureau needs to address are obtaining an 800 telephone number; providing small tourist information centers at lodging properties; coordinating a countywide calendar of events; and conducting annual or quarterly training familiarization tours of the area for sales representatives.

Upcoming events

In other business, Richard Ouzounian, director of the Western Reserve Film Commission, told the CVB board that scenes for an upcoming Hollywood film, "Walker," starring Sam Shepard, will be shot in the Mahoning Valley in mid-July.

Film crews plan to stay at the Dutch Village Inn in Columbiana, and the film company also will bring in other people and equipment from Pittsburgh for the shoot.

Jeff Kossow, executive director of the Youngstown Convocation Center, told the bureau the arena has 107 events planned for this year and into 2006, and bookings continue to go well.

He said construction continues on pace, and he applauded the Valley's trade unions for doing exceptional work.

Kossow said the arena will provide a great opportunity for Valley residents and beyond to enjoy quality entertainment.

He said he expects a half-million people to patronize the arena during an event season, which will mean more business for current and future downtown entrepreneurs.

Lawsuit limbo

The board also heard from Traficanti and Ludt that the lawsuit between the commissioners and the Youngstown/Mahoning County CVB remains in limbo.

The county wants to get between $200,000 and $300,000 that remains with that CVB returned for use by the new bureau.

Commissioners quit funding the old CVB in 2003. A court ruled the old board could keep the money it accumulated from the county's lodging tax. The county appealed that ruling to the 7th District Court of Appeals.

Wanda Modarelli, who was with the former Trumbull County Convention and Visitor's Bureau, also told the board she thought it was a conflict of interest to have Billie Jo Zimmerman, executive director of the old Youngstown/Mahoning CVB working as interim director of the new Trumbull CVB.

Modarelli is now lending her 13 years of tourism expertise to the new Mahoning bureau.




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