Highland County Chamber of Commerce 2021 Summary – Part 2

Hi, this is Chris Swecker, Executive Director of The Highland County Chamber of Commerce.

This is Part 2 of our story letting you know about some of the work of the Chamber of Commerce over our last fiscal year of October 1, 2020 through September 30, 2021, as well as where we’re headed.

We debuted a new Highland County video on Facebook and YouTube as live premieres featuring drone footage and the beautiful song “Highland” used with permission from our county’s very own Alice Shumate.  Back in the fall of the year that video has had a reach of over 74,000 with 410 shares and over 100 comments, most showing nostalgia and love for Highland County.

We greatly increased our presence of marketing the county by providing promotional materials at various events around the state, including at the Virginia Farm Festival in Doswell, twice at the Covington Welcome Center with assistance from our partnership with Virginia’s Western Highlands, which includes Allegheny, Bath and Craig Counties.  We also promoted Highland County at the local fair and most recently at the State Fair of Virginia, also in Doswell.

We sponsored the 2021 Mountain Mama Bike Challenge, as well as donated items for the Highland County Recreation Commission’s Bunny Trail in March.

Because we are at the table and promoting our Members and the county, we have also been able to secure some great advertising in some very effective areas.  The Omni Homestead in Bath County has been promoting the Virginia Maple Syrup Trail as part of a new campaign they began earlier this year to let their guests know of local attractions to explore.  I was also part of an interview with some local syrup producers on their “Beyond the Tower” podcast, which was a lot of fun and we were also featured on a different podcast with Shenandoah Valley Partnership’s “Shenandoah Valley Life”, which was also a lot of fun.

We updated the Chamber’s online lodging page to better showcase what we have to offer, first providing icons for quick information for visitors, such as minimum night stays.  Later, we listened to a Facebook concern about a lack of last-minute lodging in the county and we surveyed our lodging Members to get their “walk-in” policy.  And we provided that information to the public now as a new icon on our online lodging page.  In addition, we gave an “emergency lodging” list to the sheriff’s office and other local stores to help spread knowledge of where to go in the area without any advance notice, since we are currently lacking in a motel or hotel in Highland County.

The county’s Visitor Center is located at The Highland Center in Monterey and we are the lead organization that works to maintain that along with The Highland Center and the Highland Tourism Council.   It is currently open even though it is unstaffed.  It is open when The Highland Center is open, typically between 9 am and 5 pm Monday through Friday and between 11 am and 4 pm on Saturday and Sunday.  In case the building is locked, a brochure rack was also added to the outside of the building at  the left of the entrance.

Moving forward, the Chamber will continue to collaborate with other organizations to be more efficient, such as being involved in a 3-year Rural Community Development Initiative Grant, or RCDI grant, and that process is now focused on strategic planning along with the Highland EDA, the Tourism Council, and The Highland Center.  The Chamber is also the Destination Marketing Organization (DMO) for the county, and we will be involved in the upcoming tourism funding that will be distributed from the Virginia Tourism Corporation as part of the American Rescue Plan Act.  That funding is being looked at as going toward better signage in the community.

I know this is a lot of information, but it’s really just an overall highlight reel of what your Highland County Chamber of Commerce does.  Membership to the Chamber is an annual commitment at an affordable price, and we feel it is an incredible investment to take advantage of all these benefits and to support your local community.  We thank each and every Chamber Member and the Highland County community for the privilege of serving you and for your continued support!

After such challenging and difficult times here in the past several months, we are so looking forward to 2022.


Story By

Bonnie Ralston

Bonnie Ralston is the Assistant Station Coordinator at WVLS and a Highland County news reporter. She began volunteering at Allegheny Mountain Radio in the fall of 2005. In 2006 she became an AMR employee and worked in Bath County for eight years as the WCHG Station Coordinator and then as the news reporter there. She began working in radio while in college and has stayed connected to radio, in one way or another, for more than thirty years. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, while spending a lot of time on her family’s farm in Deerfield, Virginia. She enjoys spending time outside, watching old TV shows and movies and tending to her chickens.

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