MANSFIELD -- When people think jobs and tax revenues, they may not always think of tourism.
They would think wrong.
Lee Tasseff, president of Destination Mansfield-Richland County, made that clear to Mansfield City Council on Tuesday night.
In what has become an annual year-end presentation to council members, Tasseff pointed out tourism and tourism-based jobs make the sector the fourth-largest employer in Richland County, trailing only manufacturing, educational services/health care/social assistance and retail.
"It's always nice to have positive news at the end of the year," he said.
Tasseff said the impact of tourism rose to $338 million in 2017, up from $304 million the previous year.
"The important part of that is it rose 7.1 percent, which was more than twice the rate of any increase in the 21-county northeast Ohio region," Tasseff said. "That's also twice the rate of increase in counties for the state of Ohio.
"Only three other counties in northeast Ohio have a higher percentage of jobs related to tourism," Tasseff said. "What that means is 17 other counties have tourism that means less to them (than it does to Richland County_."
Tasseff said the tourism industry generated $8.6 million in local taxes "by people who don't live here."
"For us, it's a good time to do what we do. It's a good time to be involved in all those things. It's very exciting for the community as a whole," Tasseff said.
Tasseff pointed out several sites and events that generated tourism and attention to Mansfield and Richland County, including the Inkcarceration music festival, which will return to the grounds of the former Ohio State Reformatory in July.
He said the three-day event this summer attracted 6,000 people a day, 40 percent of whom came from outside Ohio.
"The impact on local spending was about $2.3 million. The impact from PR related stories was about $4.5 million. It has a chance to become a permanent or long-term part of the community," he said, pointing out organizers worked with about 30 local companies in staging the festival.
Tasseff also described the success of a digital campaign Destination Mansfield-Richland County did on behalf of BibleWalk, 500 Tingley Ave.
"We followed fans and visitors of the Museum of the Bible, which opened in Washington, D.C. earlier in the spring, and the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum in Kentucky. Once (visitors) started using mobile devices in those vicinities, our ads started popping up.
"There were people who drove straight here from one of those (other attractions). They didn't bother going home. The saw those ads for Biblewalk and showed up (here)," he said, adding many of those people had no idea BibleWalk existed before seeing the digital campaign.
Tasseff thanked council members for approving the dry dam project in Mansfield, the planned work on the B&O Bike Trail ("the bike trail is obviously near and dear to our hearts"), and for supporting the license plate fee for downtown development.
Tasseff also discussed events planned in 2019, including the Ohio Halloween & Haunters Convention in May, the 25th anniversary of the Shawshank Redemption movie in August, the Studebaker Drivers Club International Meet in September and the National Auto Sports Association National Championships at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in September.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: Economic development director Tim Bowersock told council Old Dominion Freight Line will acquire 20 acres in Mansfield's Airport West Industrial Park to construct a $7 million, 50-bay facility, opening by the summer of 2019.
Founded in 1934, Old Dominion began as a single truck running a 94-mile route in Virginia. Bowersock said it's now the largest trucking company in the country and is in a fast-track expansion mode.
He said the development will mean 50 new local jobs, most of which will be for truck drivers and that construction is expected to begin in January.
"It's a great project for us and a good one to start 2019 off with," Bowersock said.
BRIDGE REPLACEMENT: Council approved a contract for engineering design services related the improvement of Ritter's Run Waterway and potential bridge/culvert replacement along Third Street. City Engineer Bob Bianchi said the design firm will look at all options regarding the 700 feet of culvert and that the city would seek ODOT grant funds once council makes a decision on the best way to proceed. He said replacing the entire culvert could cost around $3 million.
IN OTHER ACTION, COUNCIL:
-- Accepted an anonymous $8,000 donation for the purchase of a police K-9 unit dog. Another $1,000 grant for the same effort was accepted from the Mansfield Elks Lodge #56.
-- Accepted a $1,000 donation from Mansfield Elks Lodge #56 for use by the Mansfield Fire Department in acquiring fire prevention educational materials.
-- Delayed until the next meeting consideration of an ordinance that would restore the ability of the city's public works director to enter into contracts on behalf of the city, as well as hire/terminate employees. Currently, only the city's safety-service director has that ability.