Carbon County Economic Development Specialist Rita Vigor (left) and Carbon County Tourism Specialist Tina Henrie (right).
At the Carbon County Office of Tourism Board meeting on Tuesday evening, Commissioner Casey Hopes announced that the tourism and economic development departments within the county have undergone restructuring. These changes aim to better serve both departments, which Hopes said commonly overlap in work efforts and goals.
Prior, the departments were separate with a specialist serving as the lone employee in each department. While the commissioners are heavily involved in tourism and economic development, the efforts have been headed by Carbon County Tourism Specialist Tina Henrie and Economic Development Specialist Rita Vigor.
“There is significant overlap between the county’s economic development efforts and the county’s efforts to develop Carbon County into a tourism destination,” Hopes said. “We decided to combine the departments with Rita being the department head and Tina continuing to function as the tourism specialist.”
This combination of the departments went into effect on May 17. Hopes said that the change aims to benefit both departments and give Henrie and Vigor increased opportunity to work together on projects with a common goal. However, the restructuring is not a novel idea; Hopes said it is common in many small communities.
“Other counties follow a similar structure which we have been told works for those counties,” Hopes said. “I think that the key to success in any structure is the people, and I believe that Rita and Tina are the right people to continue to make these efforts for Carbon County. They have the drive and the passion to push for our community and make things happen. They are engaged and dedicated to helping our local economy grow and I believe that we will continue to see more good come from their working together.”
Hopes also addressed the decision of appointing Vigor as the department head, stating that the county’s focus on overall economic development is the driver behind the decision. “County governments have tourism departments for the primary purpose of generating economic activity within the county,” Hopes explained. “The restaurant and hotel taxes that fund county tourism departments all across the state have to be used by those tourism departments for the purpose of developing tourism venues, events and opportunities that bring in people and their money from out of the area. In other words, the reality is that tourism is part of a broader economic development effort and is one tool among many we use for general economic development in the county.”
The consolidation of these departments is simply a recognition of that reality, he said. “The new department’s specific charge is to create economic development, whether that be through tourism or other means. It made some sense to us to continue to have our present economic development director continue to lead this expanded effort so that tourism is properly considered in the broader context of its contribution to the county’s economic development efforts.”
While both specialists will primarily continue to work on their individual and combined objectives, Hopes explained that Vigor will have oversight as the supervisor, giving her the ability to align the county’s tourism goals with its economic goals. This will “help us be more strategic in our approach,” Hopes said.
Although the county’s economic development and tourism department is small, there are no immediate plans to employ additional personal. “We recognize that there is a need for help in this department, but because our budgets are still tight, we have decided at this time to not hire anyone else,” Hopes said.
In addition to the structure of the combined department, there is also the budget to consider. Up to this point, each department has had its own budget and Hopes said neither tourism nor economic development will lose its planned funding for 2020. “The new department will receive all of the amounts budgeted for 2020 for both tourism and economic development. There is no decrease in funding for either economic development or tourism for this year,” Hopes concluded.