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11/18/2004

LAVA flowing

By Tony Kindelspire
The Daily Times-Call

LONGMONT — Nelson Miner likes to tell the story of the dog show at the Boulder County Fairgrounds.

Attending one year, he examined the list of people who had brought their dogs to town for the show and found home addresses from Maine, British Columbia, Ontario, California, Texas and Wisconsin.

These people all had one thing in common besides attending the show: They were all here showing Tibetan terriers.

“That’s just one

breed of dog,” said Miner, of Prime Real Estate Management and a member of the Longmont Area Chamber of Commerce board of directors. “I think we should pick that dog as a mascot.”

The “we” Miner was referring to is the Longmont Area Visitors Association, a joint venture between the chamber and the city.

Miner was one of several people who spoke about LAVA to about 80 interested people at the Radisson Conference Center on Monday.

LAVA has been in the works for about 16 months now, but it was this year that the chamber took the group under its wing and the city formally bought into the idea by getting out its checkbook.

The Longmont City Council this year contributed $8,000 to the group, a sum matched by the chamber. The city has already allocated $27,000 for the group in 2005, and the chamber is committed to matching that amount in cash and in-kind donations. LAVA also hopes to raise $31,000 from membership fees and advertising.

At this point, the group is being run by a temporary seven-member advisory board, which hosted Monday’s meeting to show off the new Web site — www.visitlongmont.com — and to try to attract more interest from the community.

Or as Joey Kee, sales director at the Marriott Courtyard and Residence Inn, put it: “That’s why we wanted to have this rah-rah today — so we could bring everybody together.”

Kee sits on the advisory committee and has been involved from the beginning. She outlined to the crowd LAVA’s mission statement and objectives, and explained the group’s goals for the coming year, which include hiring a director, starting at part-time, by the beginning of the year.

The reason for LAVA’s existence is obvious. Miner pointed to results of a study, released in June, done by the Denver Business Journal. It found there were 21.3 million visitors to Colorado in 2003, and 9.7 million of them came to the Denver metro area. Those 9.7 million spent $2.4 billion, he said.

“We’re taking baby steps here, but the most important thing to me is 42 percent of the people who come to the Denver metro area are going on the Internet to figure out how they’re going to spend their time, and the Web site is going to put us in there,” Miner said. “We’ve got all the product we need — it’s how we package it and sell it.”

Martha Clevenger, director of the Longmont Museum and Cultural Center and a member of the advisory board, said the number of people who showed up Monday has her encouraged.

“I’m pleased, but I’m not surprised,” Clevenger said. “I think there’s a widespread interest in the cultural and business community in marketing what we have to offer, and we can all only benefit by it.”