The Blandin Foundation recently published an inclusive assessment of the last cohort of Blandin Broadband Communities. Including a segment on Iron Range Tourism Bureau…
The Iron Range Tourism Bureau (IRTB) BBC is the first ”community of interest” to participate in the program as a Blandin Broadband Community. IRTB is a tourism-support association that serves the communities of Hibbing, Chisholm, Buhl, Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, Fayal Township, Gilbert, Biwabik, Aurora, Embarrass, and Hoyt Lakes. The IRBC team‘s goal as a BBC is to help small tourism businesses better use the internet and technology to attract new visitors to the area.
Attracting and retaining workforce is a big concern for tourism businesses. To address this challenge the team is implementing two projects in 2020: a “local pride” campaign promoting activities and opportunities available on the Range, and a “talent attraction” microsite targeted at people considering moving to the area.
Another priority for the IRTB BBC was to improve the digital marketing and social media skills of the region’s tourism businesses through one-on-one trainings, professional design services, and equipment upgrades.
Arts is a great asset throughout the region, but not always very visible to the general public. IRTB is showcasing the work of area artists and cultural opportunities in the region by creating a digital map8. The map will help raise resident and visitor awareness of arts opportunities, increase the audience for cultural events and improve artists’ ability to market their work.
Finally, the IRTB team seeks to promote the region’s mining identity for tourism by creating a virtual reality mine tour. Mine tours used to be quite popular on the Iron Range, but for a number of reasons they aren’t offered any more. Both residents and visitors are interested in the mining process, and this will provide them with an entertaining and educational virtual experience.
The small business marketing assistance allowed 15 nonprofits to purchase equipment and services vital to their success. Items such as scanners, website design, and software purchases allowed the Virginia Area Historical Society, Lyric Center for the Arts, the Tourist Center Seniors and others increase their visibility and meet their organization’s goals.
-Beth Pierce, Iron Range Tourism Bureau