Fort Morgan is poised to see tourism skyrocket. That could be good for Sterling, too. – The Denver Post

The selection of Fort Morgan as the site of the second season of HGTV’s Home Town Takeover show could reap benefits for its sister city, Sterling, according to Media Logic Radio marketing specialist Alicia Ionnone.

Ionnone led a discussion at Logan County Chamber of Commerce’s January Business Roundtable on why and how Sterling could take advantage of an expected increase in tourism to Fort Morgan after the show airs this spring. The Business Roundtables are a monthly discussion hosted by the Chamber on the last Thursday of the the month.

The announcement of Fort Morgan as the next Home Town Takeover city came last summer, and crews from the show spent the fall doing over a dozen improvement projects around the community.

The first town to get the HGTV show’s makeover was Wetumpka, Alabama, a city of under 8,000 – about half the size of Fort Morgan. According to Ionnone, the town saw a huge increase in visitors after the first season aired in 2021.

“They were not prepared for the massive amount of tourism that came,” Ionnone said. “The town was flooded with people.”

Surrounding communities also saw a boost in visitors, and some were overwhelmed, Ionnone said. She believes that in the area around Fort Morgan, Sterling is the city that stands to gain the most from the growth in tourism. But to do so, the community needs to be prepared.

Ionnone asked those attending the roundtable to consider how Sterling can capitalize on Fort Morgan’s newfound popularity and attract those traveling to Fort Morgan to stop in Sterling.

One suggestion was to lean into the idea that as sister cities, Sterling and Fort Morgan should help each other and promote one another’s successes. Sterling City Manager Kevin Blankenship noted that a regional meeting of city managers has recently resumed, and Sterling hosted the January conference, where he met Fort Morgan’s new city manager.

Also discussed was the need for Sterling as a community to do better in promoting itself. That led to talk about how to get front-line employees who are most likely to interact with visitors, such as front-desk staff at hotels or clerks at gas stations, to promote Sterling’s amenities and assets. Elinor Brown, executive director for the Logan County Chamber, said there is a grant-funded program in the works to hold bus tours for such workers in the community that will train them on how to be ambassadors for the town.

Promotional materials or brochures and “Sterling” souvenirs were also listed as needs, as well as identifying places where those resources might be available in town.

The group discussed possibly forming some kind of marketing committee, perhaps through the Chamber, to spearhead promotion efforts.

“It’s really important to me that Sterling shines,” Brown said.

Prior to the discussion, Brown announced two February events for the Chamber.

The next Business Roundtable will be on the “State of Our Community.” The event, co-sponsored by the Journal-Advocate and South Platte Sentinel, will feature updates from Logan County Commissioner Joe McBride, Blankenship on behalf of the city, Sterling Regional MedCenter CEO Ned Resch, Northeastern Junior College President Mike White and a representative of the Eastern Colorado Workforce Center. The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. in the Tennant Art Gallery at NJC.

The Chamber’s annual banquet will follow two days later in the NJC ballroom, and the Chamber is accepting nominations now for its annual awards to be presented that night. The event is slated to begin with a social hour at 6 p.m. Feb. 25.

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