Monday Apr 27 2009
Folsom is more than another Gold Rush town
By: Jeff Ferreira-Pro
It always bothers me when I hear people say, “Folsom is just another Gold Rush town.” This has been debated by Folsom’s history buffs for at least the 30 years I’ve lived here. Some will argue that Folsom is more of a railroad town. Others will say that the Folsom Powerhouse is our most significant contribution to world history. Or maybe we should just accept that thanks to Johnny Cash, we’re best known for Folsom Prison. Well so what? If history is not your thing, why should you care? One reason history matters is because of the money. According to the California Travel and Tourism Commission, state tourism is a $90 billion industry annually. Folsom could use some more of that money — especially right now! People who visit interesting historic sites also look for places to shop, dine and sleep while they’re in town. Is Folsom’s history capable of attracting more of these tourists and getting them to spend more of their money in Folsom? Bernard Gibson, business professor at Folsom Lake College, has offered to help answer this question. He’s given his Thursday evening marketing class the semester project of surveying Sutter Street visitors. They are formulating a list of questions such as, “Where are you from?”, “How did you get here?”, “What attraction brought you to Sutter Street?” or, “What attraction would you most like to see added?” The surveyors will also visit attractions outside the district to ask “Why did you come here instead of visiting the historic district?” We’re expecting the collected data to help create a profile of our current visitors. With these results, we can develop a marketing and branding strategy to highlight the features that are most popular. We can also re-examine the less popular attractions. Are they doomed to failure, or can we make improvements to help them become more popular? The catalyst that launched this effort is the premise that Folsom’s history attractions would be more effective working together instead of continuing our debate over who is most important. The Folsom Historical Society is playing the coordination role in bringing together all the local history groups to improve the way we market ourselves. We’ve named our coalition “Folsom Heritage” — not to be confused with the Heritage Preservation League. Bernard learned of our efforts and became intrigued with the opportunity to help us and at the same time, give his class a real-world marketing project. Philip Rose and I gave an initial presentation to the class to explain our marketing challenge. We were delighted with their enthusiastic response. Several of the students expressed a desire to not only conduct the survey, but to be involved in the subsequent strategic planning process. Look for a report of the survey results in a future article. In the meantime, if you see someone with a clipboard asking questions on Sutter Street, please stop and talk with them. They’re not selling anything or asking for donations. They are making a contribution to the future of Folsom.