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Newton Chamber shares successes, new objectives

Bridgestone Golf Inc. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dan Murphy was selected as the Chamber’s 2014 board of directors chairman. In his presentation at the annual meeting on Thursday, Murphy made a comparison of selling and branding golf balls to selling Covington and Newton County. (Staff photo: Lee Depkin)

Bridgestone Golf Inc. Vice President of Sales and Marketing Dan Murphy was selected as the Chamber’s 2014 board of directors chairman. In his presentation at the annual meeting on Thursday, Murphy made a comparison of selling and branding golf balls to selling Covington and Newton County. (Staff photo: Lee Depkin)

COVINGTON — As marketing efforts increased, more tourists visited Covington in 2013. But there’s more work to be done to sell Newton County, according to 2014 Covington-Newton Chamber of Commerce board of directors Chairman Dan Murphy.

Outgoing chairman Paul Murphy gave the 2013 success numbers during the Chamber’s annual meeting on Thursday.

“Tourism is up by 13.7 percent. Over 28,000 people visited from 46 states and more than 40 different countries,” Paul Murphy said. “We set up a new membership database, enhanced marketing strategies and offered a new member orientation class.”

Over the past year, the Chamber focused on recruiting more movie producers and branding the slogan, “Hollywood of the South” by launching a new website, www.Gocovington.com. The online guide allows tourists to find places to eat, sleep, shop and more.

“All initiatives are driven by a strategic plan. As a board, we’ve had a clear picture and accountability behind that plan,” Paul Murphy said. “The community is getting first class results from the Chamber’s first class team. Newton County is fortunate to have dedicated professionals to make such a thriving community.”

The Chamber also saw an increase in membership, which now totals 529, Paul Murphy said.

But as the new chairman, Dan Murphy wants the Chamber to “step it up.”

“Everyone wants to know what’s going on for dues and what direction we are heading in,” Dan Murphy said. “It comes into one short phrase, step it up. We have accomplished a lot. But we can add a little more juice, and can sell it (Newton County) in a bigger and badder way.”

As Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Bridgestone Golf Inc., Dan Murphy moved from Greenville, S.C., to Covington in 2004 bringing the leisure sporting goods with him.

He compared branding the company’s golf balls to selling the idea of Covington and the county.

“Our goal was to create a premium golf brand that could compete against Titleist. The problem was Bridgestone was a known brand, but not as a sporting good,” Dan Murphy said. “We had to customize and differentiate ourselves.”

Dan Murphy said the Chamber has three strong differentiaters it can use to sell the county: The people, place and plan.

“The people are friendly and hard-working. Covington is a great place to live and work. We have a 2050 plan that allows us to grow without sacrificing ourselves,” he said.

The three sales jobs Dan Murphy said the Chamber will need to turn its attention to in 2014 are recruiting more core industries, drawing in more residents and promoting tourism.

He said gaining residents is a top objective.

“I really want to push on this one, because we aren’t doing a very good job,” he said. “Only 10 of 98 Baxter International families moved to Newton County. We have a research project underway to find out what turned them off, did they even look and other details so we can have an action plan ready. We’re going to give 100 percent energy to sell what we love about Covington.”

The annual meeting concluded with presentations of the Chamber awards.

The winners are:

• Dick James Small Business of the Year: Jessica Lowery of Mystic Falls Tours

• Emerging Business of the Year: Mark Ross of Right At Home

• Deal of the Year: James Woodard of Newton College & Career Academy

• Spirit of Excellence: Greg Proffitt of Newton Federal Bank

• R.O. Arnold Award: Bill Loeble of Beaver Manufacturing

Check the Citizen next week for more information about the award winners.