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Destination Modesto 

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Modesto is taking a new look at its future through the lens of art and culture. The City Council recently formed a task force to take a more strategic approach to tourism and marketing. This includes reviewing how we look at the city’s current assets: McHenry Mansion, McHenry Museum, John Thurman Field, the four golf courses and the Modesto Centre Plaza.

“We need to look at these as an asset class and amenities that make our community desirable,” said Cynthia Birdsill, Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Modesto. “I think the McHenry Mansion is one of the best historic homes in the county and we have never dedicated marketing dollars toward it,” added Birdsill. She went on to discuss the need to elevate these assets in the minds of regional travelers and find better ways to fund their operation including the development of a strategic plan for marketing and maintenance.

At this time, the city is taking time to step back and analyze what would make each asset run better. Where could partnerships be developed and what metrics can be established to measure success? All of this is being done through a strategic marketing diagnostic scoring tool, Destination Next, and donated facilitation services by Destination Marketing Association International. The task force will make recommendations this summer and any recommended changes will be rolled out throughout the fiscal year.

Partners in this effort include the Chamber, Stanislaus County, Manufacturers Council of the Central Valley and the Alliance. All of these include employers who are trying to attract employees and a large part of that attraction is the quality of life in our town.

Birdsill noted, “I think cultural development is very much part of economic development.”She added that, as a city, we should look at performing and visual arts, culinary arts and sports as assets to build upon. Last quarter the soccer complex was the highest attended asset in the city, which is a great base to grow upon. As we compete more on a global market for employers and employees we need to look at what makes Modesto a great place to live and grow a business. Afterall, we already have great traditions like our 97 year-old MoBand and the beautiful art deco State theater as the base for our cultural offerings.

Nationwide cities and counties are looking at the impact of culture on development. Modesto is planning to find cities who have succeeded in these areas and look at their best practices as an additional benchmark in our future growth.

So what does Birdsill see for Modesto five years from now? “I would like to see a vibrant downtown with restaurants and retail and find a way to highlight local products,” said Birdsill. She is also hoping that downtown will become home to an independent bookstore which can serve as a cultural center, perhaps hosting local poetry readings. Poetry, art, performances, museums, golf, great food and a place to run are all things that make Modesto great, the charge of the task force, the City and its partners is to package these assets into something that will make people think about going to “Destination Modesto.”

by Michele Laverty

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