Tourism grants available for businesses, groups

Money collected from a new tax on local hotel and motel stays will help local businesses and attractions draw in tourists.

The Johnson County Convention Visitor and Tourism Bureau is offering up to $20,000 next year in grants to businesses, groups or residents who want to bring people to the county. The grants are being paid for with a 5 percent tax on hotel and motel stays that went into effect last year.

The goal is to use the money to bring new attractions or events to the county, which will draw in more visitors and tourists, said Kenneth Kosky, the county’s director of tourism.

Grants are capped at $5,000 each, but some may be as small as $500, depending on what a group plans to do, he said.

Kosky, who previously worked for Indiana Dunes Tourism in Porter County, said the grants were offered there, and were successful in encouraging others to bring in events, festivals and attractions. The goal is to create more ways to draw in visitors, who will stay at local hotels, eat in restaurants and shop, but the additions would also benefit local residents by giving them more options, he said.

“The possibilities are really endless,” Kosky said.

“We would like to see Johnson County have more for residents to do and more for visitors to do.”

The money could be used for promotions or marketing, or to actually create an attraction or even design a website to promote an event or attraction, he said.

For example, an organization may need $500 to promote its event and make it a regional draw. Money could also be used for a public art installation or to start a new festival or event, he said. In Porter County, one group received a grant to create a covered viewing area at the airport for people to watch planes fly in and out, and another group wanted to build a platform for train enthusiasts at the train station, Kosky said.

The board will review grant applications later this year and can award money by the start of next year, he said. Some money also will be set aside for new ideas that may come up next year, he said.