HERMISTON — Hermiston and Umatilla netted some tourism-promoting cash this month as the Eastern Oregon Visitors Association announced its first-ever regional grants program.

The city of Umatilla received $7,000 toward new wayfinding signage, and the Hermiston Chamber of Commerce received a total of $7,000 to be split evenly between a new tourism website and a new visitor center.

Kimberly Nevil, the chamber’s CEO, said the money for the visitor center will be used when the chamber builds its new offices and workforce development center on South Highway 395. A visitor center will be included in the project, and Nevil said ideas for the money include a mural promoting Hermiston and an interactive electric kiosk.

On the website side, Nevil said the chamber has a Travel Hermiston committee that has “really taken off” in the last six months. The committee hopes to take the tourism-related parts of the chamber’s current website and spin it off into a separate Travel Hermiston website that would highlight hotels, restaurants, events and other attractions for visitors.

“Basically, ‘What can you do during the weekend while you’re here for business?’” Nevil said.

The Travel Hermiston committee meets at 7:30 a.m. the first Thursday of every month at the Union Club, 201 E. Main St. in Hermiston, and members of the public are welcome to attend.

The city of Umatilla will use the money it received to add wayfinding signage to help direct visitors to attractions in the area.

The association paid out a total of $81,850 for the 2019-20 grant cycle after receiving applications for more than $322,000 in projects. The money comes from the passage of House Bill 4146, which required Travel Oregon to invest 20% of the statewide lodging tax into Oregon’s seven designated tourism regions. The Eastern Oregon Visitors Association implements the money for the Eastern Oregon region.

The association’s executive director Alana Carollo said in a statement that they were “ecstatic” about the level of response for the first grant cycle.

“The Grants Program has been a great opportunity to engage with new partners and organizations, and to further grow and align our collaborative efforts,” she wrote. “We are looking forward to the product development and economic impact the project recipients will have at the local, regional and state level, and are excited to see what next year’s submissions will bring!”

Other grants awarded include grants to various Eastern Oregon visitor centers, museums, arts centers, agritourism farms and the Eastern Oregon Film Festival in La Grande.

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