Tuesday, September 24, 2013
In “The Wizard of Oz,” Dorothy had to follow the yellow brick road to find the Emerald City.
In Summerville, tourists will have to follow the Sweet Tea Trail banners to find historic downtown Summerville, its businesses, history, and all the other attractions the town has to offer.
That’s the idea this year’s class of Leadership Dorchester had in mind, at least.
Leadership Dorchester is a year-long leadership program led by the Greater Summerville/Dorchester County Chamber of Commerce. In addition to the leadership training and educational workshops, the participants also have to implement a community project within the year.
“We were pretty well divided in April on what this project should be until we embraced this idea of tourism,” said Joe Potter, the project manager for the 2013 Leadership Dorchester class.
In May the group of 24 local professionals decided to help the Town increase revenues by bringing more tourism to the area using the “Birthplace of Sweet Tea” and “Sweet Tea Trail” campaigns.
“$3.2 billion tourism dollars come into Charleston every year. The thought was if we could just scrape a fraction of that, it would make a huge difference in Summerville,” Potter said. “The businesses are going to benefit, the economy is going to be boosted, the tax revenues generated will go to the schools and senior centers… It’s just an exciting idea.”
Since they’ve begun, the class has been busy promoting the campaigns by creating the Sweet Tea Trolley Tours, designing a new visitor’s map and making a short historical video on Summerville.
The Sweet Tea Trail banners, which the class is currently fundraising for, are their last large action item, according to Potter.
Thirteen banners will line N. Main Street, alternating three different designs from Holiday Dr. to the railroad tracks. A group of six banners with complimentary designs will hang in historic downtown Summerville.
Leadership Dorchester has a fundraising goal of $10,000. So far they’ve raised $7,000 from asking local businesses to participate in the campaign. Depending on the donation, businesses get favors such as Sweet Tea Trail decals for their storefront windows and those with larger donations get miniature banners that proclaim them an official stop on the Sweet Tea Trail.
Potter said they have also been fundraising using the “Funding Charleston” website.
He said the fundraising goal is high because the project involves some initial one-time costs such as installing the poles the banners will hang on. Potter said the banners themselves only cost around $90 and last for two years, so maintaining the banners will be less expensive.
The poles and banners were supposed to be installed in early October, however Potter said the group has had complications with the Department of Transportation that have set the project behind. He expects the project to be complete by the end of the year.
But for Leadership Dorchester, it’s worth the wait.
“The big impact is long-term what’s going to best benefit Summerville,” Potter said. “The city needs money to do things, and we have to come up with new ways to do that. We hope that this campaign will give Summerville the recognition it deserves.
There’s so much here that people just don’t realize. In the long run we hope this helps improve the city, giving the city better revenue it needs to provide better services.”
To learn more about the Sweet Tea Trail banners or to donate, visit www.fundingcharleston.com.