‘The business of tourism makes a difference in Franklin County’

By Mike Lewis
Janet Pollard has been the executive director of the Franklin County (Pa.) Visitors Bureau since 2007. The bureau recently was honored by the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce for its restoration of a historic downtown bank building into the 11/30 Visitors Center.

Janet Pollard, executive director of the Franklin County Visitors Bureau

By Mike Lewis

Coffee Break

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — The 11/30 Visitors Center is packed with brochures, pamphlets, signs, maps and other items about events, attractions and matters of interest to tourists who visit Franklin County, Pa.

Amidst it all sits a new plaque from the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. It honors the Franklin County Visitors Bureau for repurposing an 1865 bank building into the new visitors center. The building sits at 15 S. Main St., in the heart of downtown Chambersburg.

Janet Pollard, the bureau’s executive director, said the historic building and its repurposing reflects the basics of tourism in the area.

“History is our hook, but our true product is recreation. … People like to do things. They like to get involved,” she said.

On a break, do you reach for coffee, tea, soda, water …?

It depends on the time of day, season of the year and my state of mind. Because I grind and press my morning coffee, I usually have hot tea in cooler weather on a break. When the warm weather comes, I reach for iced tea. If it is a particularly stressful, deadline-driven time, I will get a red eye with cream. I am caffeine resistant, so coffee is a pleasure because of taste and warmth. A bold, strong coffee with cream is one of my favorite flavors, and the warmth is pleasant. It allows me to refocus my attention and finish whatever is pressing.

An average day for you includes … ?

An average weekday includes getting up by 5 a.m., drinking pressed coffee and watching morning news with my cat, Roo, as I check my email. I always have a few minutes of fresh air on the deck, no matter how cold. If the weather is warm enough for any gardening, I water, weed and harvest my herbs, plants and flowers daily. When it is cooler, I fill my bird and animal feeders.

How did the idea for the 11/30 Visitors Center originate, and how did it become a reality?

Essentially the visitors bureau grew up and into it. It is the result of good timing, hard work and people believing in the visitors bureau plus a little good karma that led Franklin County Visitors Bureau to the 11/30 Visitors Center.

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau is relatively young. It was formed out of the Hershey-Harrisburg Visitors Bureau in the last few days of 2005 and was organized as a department of Franklin County government. It launched promotion with a website and visitors guide in mid-2007, working to build awareness of the history, arts, recreation, natural beauty, fresh foods and warm hospitality of communities like Chambersburg, Greencastle, Mercersburg, Shippensburg and Waynesboro. We worked consistently. After FCVB became a nonprofit in 2014, tourism grew and so did FCVB’s program of work. In 2016, FCVB had an opportunity to purchase the 1865 National Bank of Chambersburg, located on the square. FCVB did and renovated the property as a visitors center. The concept of 11/30 surfaced about 10 years earlier. It was the idea of Michael Kalathas, owner of The Orchards Restaurant. He thought 11/30 gave context to the actual location of Chambersburg. With the new home of FCVB on the square at the crossroad of Routes 11 and 30, it seemed natural to use the name Franklin County 11/30 Visitors Center.

The project became a reality because the community supported the effort. FCVB purchased the bank building from Central Presbyterian. It worked with local bank F&M Trust as the primary lender with the support of Franklin County Area Development Corp., Chambersburg Area Development Corp., Community Development Corp. and the borough of Chambersburg. The FCVB Board of Directors and Franklin County Commissioners shared the vision for taking tourism to the next level. The good karma made everything fall into place at the right time. It was meant to be.

What do you hope to accomplish with the center, and what can we look forward to in the future there?

The 11/30 Visitors Center is a place to showcase Franklin County. Visitors can pick up a foodie tour or a drive to discover the county’s stone arch and covered bridges. On another level, it brings community together for an A Cappella & Unplugged Open Mic, to see local artists, or for a community gathering in the Great Room on the second floor. It is a catalyst and a tool for tourism and building pride in community.

What do you wish more people knew about the business side of tourism?

The business of tourism makes a difference for Franklin County. Visitors spend more than $350 million dollars on lodging, event tickets, dining, skiing, golfing and shopping in Franklin County. It is not the county’s number one job provider, but it contributes to about 5,000 county jobs and often is the first experience a young person has as an employee. Tourism is a valuable part of Franklin County’s economy.

Outside of your career, what are your ambitions and aspirations?

I would like to write a novel series, based around several generations of characters, possibly in a quasi-fantasy setting.

I would like to eat locally for a year.

I want to do the Fernback-Hipple-Pollard family tree on an international level and share with my children.

Want to share a cup of coffee with our readers? Send an email to facetime@crossroadsbizjour nal.com or call reporter Mike Lewis at 301-791-7482.