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Officials tout tourism cooperation at luncheon

Economic development and tourism are two entities that need to work hand-in-hand to benefit Clayton County, the county’s top economic development officials told attendees at a Clayton County Convention and Visitor’s Bureau appreciation luncheon on Tuesday.

County Economic Development Director Grant Wainscott recounted the spirit of cooperation that existed among business leaders, county officials, community leaders, and tourism representatives when he came to the county eight years ago. He reminisced about those days during remarks he made to nearly two dozen people gathered for the luncheon at Stately Oaks Plantation, in Jonesboro.

He then turned his attention, and comments, to the relationship between economic development and tourism, and why people in the two areas have to work together.

“One of the frustrating things to me was an early comment that economic development, and tourism, were two completely different entities, and that’s absolutely, 100 percent not accurate,” Wainscott said. “They are inseparable, if anything. Economic development does support tourism [and] tourism is economic development — particularly in Clayton County, where we’re so reliant upon the world’s busiest airport.”

The luncheon was an opportunity for tourism officials to thank groups and departments they work with, as 2011 comes to a close, but officials used the event as an opportunity to tout the benefits of groups across Clayton County working together to market the county.

Attendees included tourism bureau employees, Clayton County Tourism Authority board members, and representatives from the City of Riverdale, the Clayton County economic development and community development departments, and the Clayton News Daily.

“We all are a team, and we all have to work together, whether that’s a city and the county, or an organization,” said Tourism Authority Board Chairperson Linda Summerlin, who is also Arts Clayton’s executive director. “I really feel that the ultimate goal is that we are one community, and if something good happens here, for Clayton County, or Jonesboro, then it’s good for Riverdale, or Morrow, or Forest Park as well.”

The luncheon included pledges of new cooperation for the future, on top of recognition of past affiliations. Patrick Ejike, the recently appointed director of Clayton County’s Community Development Department, added that his department will now be joining the tourism bureau’s, and economic development department’s promotional efforts.

“Part of our mission now is to figure out a way to market the county,” Ejike said. “We’ll put the right tools on our [county] web site, so that people in China can look at it, and they will come to see Clayton County ... That is ground zero for marketing.”