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Cooperation is key to making most of Gold Country tourism potential, consultant says

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Look north and south for a stronger voice in getting the word out about attractions for tourists, a travel research consultant is advising Gold Country communities like Auburn. Dean Runyan, president of Portland, Oregon’s Dean Runyan Associates, provided a preliminary look Thursday at results of a study expected to be released by the end of the month on travel and tourism in Placer County. Speaking at the 18th annual Placer County Economic Development Board Economic Development Summit, Runyan broke the county into three areas — the valley, Gold Country and the high country. The Gold Country strength lies in its “diversity of voices” and a variety of locations that extends both north and south of Placer County, he said. But to take advantage of its tourism potential, communities like Auburn need to reach out to neighbors, he said. “That could be helped by trying to be a little more cooperative and trying to pull marketing together with areas north and south of you,” Runyan said. “You would expand your voice further because you’re going to have more money to do it.” After the meeting, Bruce Cosgrove, Auburn Chamber of Commerce executive director, said that part of the attraction of the Gold Country is its diversity but he sees Runyan’s comments as positive in light of what is already taking place. Three meetings have taken place in the last 30 days to work on a marketing plan to identify the best brand for Auburn and the surrounding Gold Country, he said. Auburn tourism and economic interests are working with California Welcome Center manager Jan Decker on marketing approaches, he said. “I see it as a matter of pulling diverse interests together and identifying what our brand should be,” Cosgrove said. Runyan highlighted a study that indicates while tourism employment numbers have been holding over the past six years at just more than 9,000 jobs, earnings are increasing. So are tax receipts, he said. Employment numbers should increase in November with the opening of the new Ritz-Carlton Highlands Hotel at the Northstar-at-Tahoe ski resort. Allen Highfield, manager of the soon-to-open, 170-room five star facility, said the impact during construction has been the creation of 400 construction jobs. After it’s completed, the hotel and spa will hire probably 325 employees from the area, he said. The summit also featured awards presentations to Rogers Family Company, a coffee business at the Lincoln Airport, and the Mountain Mandarin Growers Association. Rogers won the award for private sector business of the year while the growers association won the public sector award. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com or comment at Auburnjournal.com.