This is a corrected version from 4/11/19.
By Susan E. Campbell
Andrew Meader has spent the past two years on a mission to promote tourism and increase visitation in Washington County.
So far there has been a quantifiable increase in traffic and dollars spent while in the county, but Meader will not take all the credit.
He is part of a triad of professionals working with the governor’s office and the local economic development agency to build awareness of, and bring industry into, the area where Meader grew up and has spent much of his career.
“I sit on the Economic Development Council for the Capital region and got to know Laura Oswald, director for economic development for Washington County,” he said. “We were involved in a lot of meetings and often talked about tourism.”
Oswald told Meader she was always looking for firms like his to promote the county. His company, 8 of Eight Strategies LLC, offers marketing strategy, business consulting, and project management to help clients reach their full potential.
“I threw my hat in the ring,” said Meader. “My primary role is to formulate a marketing plan and to oversee strategy and outreach.”
His firm partners with black dog DESIGNS for graphics and a dedicated web site. The third in the group, Mannix Marketing, is responsible for social media and publishing content on local sites, he said.
The three have contracted with Washington County and report to Oswald. Their budget is derived from Washington County funds, state occupancy tax, and I Love New York, an Empire State Development program that has promoted tourism for decades, according to Meader.
Meader said he was familiar with Washington County before but now knows a lot more about the area. He is a graduate of Lake George High School and attended Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. After college he spent two years with Up With People and then settled in Hawaii for 10 years.
“But I missed the seasons and my folks,” Meader said. “The Glens Falls area is a different kind of paradise.”
Returning to New York, he took a position at Six Flags as director of corporate alliances and sold sponsorships in that capacity. Going back out on his own as a consultant five years later in 2016 was something that he said “just evolved.”
“I was working with the Adirondack outlets buying media and then consulting for Park Theater, and was accustomed to producing events all around the country,” he said. “By early 2017 I had started a business, 8 of Eight Strategies LLC, at 174 Glen St. downtown.”
Meader said he is the eighth of eight children and his business name is a nod to his mother, who put all eight children through college.
“Often people will say, what is there to do in Washington County?” he said. “We are working to rebrand how people think about a tourism business by highlighting what’s already there – apple picking, craft breweries, music, theater, sports, the county fair, and much more.”
The first part of last year Meader spent developing a new brand, “See. Taste. Explore.” His focus has been on highlighting what is unique and authentic about the area.
“See the art, culture and rich history Washington County has to offer,” Meader said. “Taste local brews and farm-to-table products of an agriculturally rich region. Explore the outdoors paddling along the Battenkill or biking or hiking around the city.”
He also catalogued all the assets Washington County offers to tourists and residents and started to count web site views for those assets. These numbers would provide a baseline for measuring success of the group’s rebranding efforts.
“Airbnb and Home Away are easy metrics and we are seeing a dramatic 40 percent increase in the number of bookings and the number of nights stayed,” Meader said.
There were an encouraging one million impressions on the refreshed official tourism web site www.washingtoncounty.fun, Meader said, and 70 percent of them were from outside the county.
The group also released a video about antiquing in Washington County “from Whitehall to Eagle Bridge and everyplace in between,” he said. The video ran on washingtoncounty.fun, Facebook and YouTube and garnered 17,000 views.
“These numbers show that we are doing what we said we could do,” he said. “The difficult part is tracking how much money people spend while on their visits.”
Film is an aspect of Meader’s experience that he is enjoying seeing “grow exponentially” in Washington County and that can be directly measured in dollars and cents.
“When searching New York for a location for filming, people were asking the Governor’s Film Office and Empire Economic Development questions about shooting and those agencies could not give the answers,” he said.
But Meader could.
The demand for locations prompted him to establish the Adirondack Film Commission, an independent non-profit organization, in July 2018. As commissioner, Meader is charged with promoting film, television and video production in the greater Glens Falls/Lake George area, which includes Washington and Warren counties.
“There are unbelievable things to shoot in Washington County,” he said. “It has the industrial spaces, the agricultural areas, the cities, and the historic spaces. All the infrastructure is in place.”
While Washington County is up against other locations in the state, “We are a new option,” Meader said.
There have been three features films since Meader started courting directors and location scouts, he said. “Radium Girls” was shot in 2016, “Spy Intervention” in 2017, and a film called “Viscus” in 2018.
“There are many projects in the pipeline and even one or two will infuse money into the community,” he said. “Money is spent on hotels, catering, extras, car rentals, hardware and supplies, and location fees.”
“Since expenses are reported back to the Governor’s Film Office for a tax credit, we can track the economic impact locally, which could be $15,000 up to $100,000 per day,” said Meader.
Meader said he is enjoying the entrepreneurial aspects of his role in the community, which he said incorporates not only marketing but also business development and economic development.
“I do think of myself as an entrepreneur when I help other businesses by contributing or providing an idea that helps them reach their full potential,” he said.
“I have found a niche I’m good at,” said Meader. “Starting your own business and figuring out how to make ends meet can be a challenge, but I’m glad I did it.”