Jackson County hopes to boost attraction to tourists

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The Mayfield Dairies visitors center will reopen in Braselton on Nov. 9. This family visited the center on the day it closed in October of 2011.

By KATIE JUSTICE, kjustice@clickthepaper.com

Braselton may be partially in Jackson County, but when it comes to tourism, the town and the county are worlds apart.

Braselton sees almost a million visitors a year leaving tourism the city’s biggest revenue generator. Braselton’s attraction to tourists should continue to thrive with the re-opening of the Mayfield Dairy Visitor’s Center on Nov. 9 and NASCAR promising to increase the number of races at Road Atlanta. The Mayfield celebration will begin at 9 a.m. with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10. Other events, including ice cream eating contests, milk chug-a-lug contests and other fun activities, are being planned.

That’s not the case in Jackson County as a whole where, according to Courtney Bernardi, Director of Economic Development at the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, tourism doesn’t really impact the economy.

However, the Jackson County Chamber’s Tourism Council aims to change that. The county’s biggest tourism generator is the Tanger Outlet Center, but the council wants to highlight other locations within the county.

“We’re such a vast community. We want to try to promote the county as a destination in itself,” said Bernardi.

However, for areas like Jackson County, a hotel/motel tax is the most notable revenue from tourism. In fact, Braselton’s 5 percent hotel tax completely funds its Visitor’s Bureau Authority and also contributes to the city’s general funds.

Jackson County’s problem is that it only has two hotels.

“We really don’t have a hotel/motel tax fund, so everything we do is really done without resources,” said Bernardi. The tourism council is made completely of volunteers and anything it creates is funded through donations or sponsorships.

Mark Valentine, who chairs the Tourism Council and is general manager of Tanger Outlets in Commerce, said he hopes to use the success of local counties, such as Clarke and Hall, to drive tourism in Jackson County.

“We want to benefit from their leverage, from their tourism draw,” said Valentine.

The ultimate goal is to eventually establish Jackson County as a tourism destination.

 See the complete story in the Nov. 1 print edition of The Paper.