HANCOCK COUNTY — Carol Barrett, special events coordinator for the Twenty North art gallery in downtown Greenfield, knows there’s a treasure trove of things to see, do and experience in Hancock County.

She also knows that people are, for the most part, unaware of all those options.

That’s why she was thrilled to hear that the Hancock County Tourism Commission has launched an initiative that ramps up efforts to get the word out, primarily through a hightech website that automatically pulls in info from around the county.

On Tuesday, Nov. 15, the tourism commission hosted an information session for business owners, nonprofit leaders and other stakeholders throughout the county to unveil the new website and share the newest plans for showcasing all that Hancock County has to offer.

The commission’s executive director, Brigette Cook-Jones, said the key ingredient is a revamped website powered by software that retrieves information from other websites throughout the county, automatically updating events, addresses and business hours.

“There’s lots of functionality with this website that we didn’t have before. We’ve been working out the kinks since the website launched over the summer,” she said Tuesday between work sessions.

More than 50 community partners attended one of three sessions, where they learned about the tourism commission’s newest plans to make Hancock County a true tourism destination.

“I don’t think people know what all we have to offer here,” said Barrett, who thinks Hancock County can eventually be on par with neighboring Hamilton County as far as being a tourism draw.

Cook-Jones said there’s so many fun and unique things happening in Hancock County, and the commission’s new website is the perfect tool to spread the word about them to both local residents and potential visitors throughout the state.

She pointed out that the Octagon House in Shirley and the James Whitcomb Riley museum in Greenfield are just a couple of local attractions that can pique the interest of travelers looking for unique destinations or quick side trips.

The new website collects and shares the latest, up-to-date information, which she Cook-Jones has been a challenge in the past.

“Promoting events has always been a challenge here in Hancock County. It’s very frustrating when our website is bare,” she said.

The new website and software “takes out the middleman,” she said, and eliminates the need for individual organizations and businesses to periodically send the most up to date information to the tourism commission.

Cook-Jones demonstrated how the new website now boasts a list of local offerings, from festivals to restaurants to boutiques, even unique local features like Fortville’s life-size pink elephant sipping a martini.

Rather than spending hours sifting through individual websites, Cook-Jones now checks for automatic updates a couple times a week, adding the information that has been gleaned from throughout the county with the click of a button.

The software works by going to a number of online event platforms like Eventbrite to gather the latest information on local events. It relies on Google searches for the latest updates on local restaurants and other businesses, grabbing the latest hours, website, phone number and address.

Cook-Jones explained that each local business owner can manage their own Google listing, which pops up online whenever someone searches the businesses’ name. “You can claim that listing and manage your hours and other information, and this software will grab that information and automatically update it on our website,” she said.

She implored stakeholders to “help me help you by getting your stuff on your website.”

Cook-Jones also shared that the new website can automatically take visitors directly to local hotels’ websites with the click of a button.

“Greenfield is the last bastion for name brand hotel chains between Indianapolis and Richmond, which is really great for tourism,” she said. “Greenfield is also cheaper and safer than Indianapolis, which also works in our favor.”

The tourism director said hotel stays are just one way Hancock County can benefit from events taking place in fringe communities like Knightstown, Carthage and Morristown. Restaurants and other local businesses can also benefit from visitors passing through, she said.

Barrett is excited to see how the new website will benefit local stakeholders in the years to come.

“To see the advantage of what that website can do for all our organizations and businesses is amazing. We sometimes struggle to market ourselves, so having this website that casts such a wide net and shares such a wealth of information is awesome, and I think we should all take advantage of it,” she said.

Cook-Jones said the website design and upkeep fees are covered by the Hancock County Tourism Commission, which paid roughly $24,000 in startup fees and will pay an estimated $5,000 for upkeep each year.
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