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2013 WOMAN OF INFLUENCE: Brenda Myers

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bmyers-1-15col.jpg Brenda Myers (IBJ Photo/Eric Learned)

The executive director of a convention and visitors bureau is primarily responsible for selling a region to non-residents, right? Well, Brenda Myers goes far beyond that.

“When I interviewed for this position,” said Myers, executive director of the Hamilton County Convention and Visitors Bureau, “the board was looking at how the organization would go into the next decade—how it would remain relevant. The board saw that the growth was naturally going to occur—that the county was obviously growing rapidly. But what were we going to do to be part of that growth?”

Myers had experience on both city tourism and cultural heritage via previous gigs that included vice president of marketing and public relations for the Indiana Historical Society, executive director of Tour Indiana, and public affairs director for Conner Prairie Interactive History Park.

Early in her tenure at the Hamilton County CVB, she met with representatives of stakeholders throughout the county. Based on that input, she decided her tenure wouldn’t be about just how to market but also about how to help these organizations be what they wanted to be.

She pushed raising the bed tax in Hamilton County from 3 percent to 5 percent to invest in local product development and community.

“The hotels were OK with it, the county council agreed, the board agreed,” she said.

Thanks to that increase, combined with the near doubling of room capacity, she found her budget rise from just under $1 million to more than $3 million today.

Her bureau became actively involved in not just promoting, but also in transforming locations into destinations. (Myers calls it “running alongside them rather than just watching them.”) It meant looking not just at big, existing attractions such as the Palladium but also at economic drivers and local amenities such as soccer fields and baseball diamonds. It meant looking at street-scaping in Cicero, a community arts initiative for Arcadia, refurbishing a log cabin in Sheridan, and enhancing historical interpretation for underground-railroad sites in Westfield.

Under Myers, the Hamilton County CVB served as lead grantor for Conner Prairie’s balloon exhibition; for the eight-field, baseball-tournament-luring Billericay Park in Fishers; and for Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield—which she calls the single most impactful project in the last quarter century of Hamilton County tourism.

And then there’s the Nickel Plate Arts Center.

“Never did I think we would own an arts organization,” she said. “But what that has done for that part of Noblesville is pretty extraordinary. And what it has done for the community is even better. It will be self-sustaining in five years.”

“It takes a lot of patience,” she said. “You have to germinate ideas, do feasibility studies, react when resources are available, work with organizations that are often all volunteer-run—but have enthusiasm and vision—and help them figure out how to make it all come together. That’s how you get a Grand Park.

“We’re just one part of it. The cities are doing the heavy lifting. And it’s not easy to move all those parts forward. But it’s a great thing when it all works.”•

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  1. If I were a developer I would be looking at the Fountain Square and Fletcher Place neighborhoods instead of Broad Ripple. I would avoid the dysfunctional BRVA with all of their headaches. It's like deciding between a Blackberry or an iPhone 5s smartphone. BR is greatly in need of updates. It has become stale and outdated. Whereas Fountain Square, Fletcher Place and Mass Ave have become the "new" Broad Ripples. Every time I see people on the strip in BR on the weekend I want to ask them, "How is it you are not familiar with Fountain Square or Mass Ave? You have choices and you choose BR?" Long vacant storefronts like the old Scholar's Inn Bake House and ZA, both on prominent corners, hurt the village's image. Many business on the strip could use updated facades. Cigarette butt covered sidewalks and graffiti covered walls don't help either. The whole strip just looks like it needs to be power washed. I know there is more to the BRV than the 700-1100 blocks of Broad Ripple Ave, but that is what people see when they think of BR. It will always be a nice place live, but is quickly becoming a not-so-nice place to visit.

  2. I sure hope so and would gladly join a law suit against them. They flat out rob people and their little punk scam artist telephone losers actually enjoy it. I would love to run into one of them some day!!

  3. Biggest scam ever!! Took 307 out of my bank ac count. Never received a single call! They prey on new small business and flat out rob them! Do not sign up with these thieves. I filed a complaint with the ftc. I suggest doing the same ic they robbed you too.

  4. Woohoo! We're #200!!! Absolutely disgusting. Bring on the congestion. Indianapolis NEEDS it.

  5. So Westfield invested about $30M in developing Grand Park and attendance to date is good enough that local hotel can't meet the demand. Carmel invested $180M in the Palladium - which generates zero hotel demand for its casino acts. Which Mayor made the better decision?

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