Attendees brainstorm ‘new opportunities’ at 2015 Bike Trail Tourism Conference

Andy Walsh, left, and Amy Walsh, owners of Mickey's Irish Pub in Waukee, attended the annual bike trail conference with its 2015 theme: creating new opportunities on our recreational trails.

With the cooperation of perfect spring weather, about 70 people attended Thursday’s second-annual Bike Trail Tourism Conference at the Hotel Pattee in Perry.

This year’s theme, “Creating new opportunities on our recreational trails,” featured sessions and panels on building bike-friendliness in communities, improving signs and way-finding, developing businesses on the trail and using technology to promote trail events.

By all accounts, the second-annual event was a success.

“From what I have read on the evaluations, everyone enjoys this conference and receives value from it,” said Perry City Administrator Butch Niebuhr.

The session started with a welcome from Perry Mayor Jay Pattee followed by opening remarks from Michael Gould, manager of business development at the Iowa Economic Development Authority. Gould, himself a biking enthusiast, brought his insights to bear from successful trail development across the U.S.

“This is really a labor of love for me,” Gould said, “a way to combine business and pleasure that is also at the heart of this conference.”

Four panels of local and area speakers with expertise in trail-related topics also made presentations over the course f the day on the following topics:

“Businesses on the trail becoming more bike friendly, with way-finding and better signage so trail users can find your business.” Panelists were Mary Laborde, financial officer at Farm Credit Services in Perry and Raccoon River Valley Trail Association (RRYTA) board member, Lee Coons, owner of Raccoon River Valley Bicycle Co. in Perry, and Bob Wilson, executive director of the Perry-Area Chamber of Commerce and RRVTA board member. The panel was moderated by Butch Niebuhr, Perry city administrator.

“Success in business on the trail.”  Panelists were Jay Hartz, owner of the Hotel Pattee in Perry, Andy Walsh, owner of Mickey’s Irish Pub in Waukee and John Brunow, owner of All Ability Cycles in Jefferson.  The moderator, Chris Henning, is the executive director of Greene County Chamber of Commerce and Development.

“Small business assistance for trail businesses and those wanting to start a trail-oriented business.” A dialogue between Christina Moffatt, regional director of the Mid-Iowa Small Business Development Center in the Iowa State University College of Business, and Jim Miller, financial consultant with Morgan Stanley Wealth Management and RRVTA board member.

“Using new technologies to market your business on the trail.” A dialgue between Scott Sumpter, owner of and Curt Thornberry, technology development director at Panora Telco.

“We were excited to host the 2015 bike trail tourism conference,” said Jay Hartz, the Hotel Pattee’s owner and general manager. “One of our strategies to grow our business is to focus on bike trail users and do all we can do to give them a great experience when they eat a meal here or stay overnight with us. We have seen a steady increase in trail users coming to the hotel.”

The conference was sponsored by the city of Perry, Common Thread, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach and the Town-Craft Center for Ideas and Strategies to Strengthen Small Communities.


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