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Kinston-Lenoir County TDA begins work as its own entity

Kinston-Lenoir County TDA begins work as its own entity

Chris Cavanaugh, president of Magellan Strategy Group, talks with the Kinston-Lenoir County Tourism Development & Authority Board during a meeting Tuesday afternoon. Rudy Coggins/Neuse News

The Kinston-Lenoir County Tourism Development and Authority - also referred to as Visit Kinston - began its first step toward autonomy on Tuesday afternoon.

Less than a month ago, the TDA said its relationship with the Kinston-Lenoir County Chamber of Commerce would officially come to an end Dec. 31 of this year. Increases in tourism have prompted each entity to work separately to achieve different goals.

"I have never been more proud to be part of a community to see how these two organizations have worked together over many, many, many years, and how they have jointly seen some positives going forward," said Gram Spear, Kinston-Lenoir TDA chairman.

"So, what does it look like for us moving forward?"

The Board contracted Chris Cavanaugh, president of Magellan Strategy Group, to share some marketing ideas as the TDA begins a new era.

Cavanaugh presented a lengthy outline that discussed practical situations and long-term goals. He said that most TDAs in North Carolina operate as quasi-government entities and that transparency is essential.

Legislation in North Carolina allows TDAs to do numerous things within the scope of the law. The Kinston-Lenoir TDA remains one of the few organizations in the state that can do capital grants as well as marketing grants. It is not impacted by the current law.

The TDA must decide if it wants to be staff-driven or pursue the 501(c)6, which allows it to have capital money. Most of the communities in North Carolina can spend up to one-third on tourism-related expenditures, including capital. The term "tourism-related expenditures" is a gray area, added Cavanaugh.

Spear said expense decisions would be up to the Board.

Cavanaugh reminded the TDA about policies and their process, which entails clarity, efficiency and accountability. He said the group has the power and flexibility to do many things.

Just don't become invisible, he warned.

"You will need to educate the public about separation," he said. "You need to engage with the city and county ... economy and local tourism, everything that affects the visitors' experience. You have to think about who you broadly impact.

"There are other reasons people come to Kinston."

The TDA plans to meet again on Oct. 22.

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