New Location for PCTDA Office and New Visitor Center for the Area
By Norwood Walker
Person County is not just the home of many Distinguished Young Women (Click here and here previous stories) but also the home of distinguished women period. Two of these have done more for Person County than many people realize.
Forming a Tourism Development Authority: The authorization to levy an occupancy tax on the gross receipts from the rental of any room, lodging or other accommodation furnished by hotels, motels, inns and similar establishments is generally coupled with the requirement to create a tourism development authority and is established by the enabling act, a local act or Session Law. There is no general law authority to levy occupancy taxes or to create a TDA. The text of Session Laws is available from the website of the North Carolina General Assembly. (source NC General Assembly document.)
In 1983 the General Assembly in North Carolina began to authorize many units of local government to levy a room occupancy tax. In 1997, G.S. 153A-155 and G.S. 160A-215 were enacted to make the occupancy taxes uniform. Also in the same year, the General Assembly authorized Person County to levy a 5% room occupancy tax and the net proceeds to be distributed to the Person County Tourism Authority designating that up to 2/3 of the money be used for the following tourism related expenditures during the first 4 years of the levy: constructing or operating the Person County Museum of History, developing Lake Mayo for fishing tournaments, skiing tournaments and other activities to attract tourists from outside the county, and support the May Festival and other festivals designed to attract tourists from outside the county. In 2011, House Bill 518 authorized that an additional 1% tax could be levied and deleted the unnecessary language as to how the money could be spent during the first four years.
What All the Legalese Means
Anyone staying in a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast, campgrounds or cabins, AirBnb, or any other similar accommodations for less than 90 consecutive days pays a 6% tax on those accommodations. The money is used by the Person County Tourism Authority (TDA) with at least two-thirds of the funds going for tourism promotion and the remainder for tourism-related expenditures. Margaret McMann has been the TDA director since January 2, 2002. From 1997 till Margaret became the first, and so far the only director, a 6 member board gave grants and bought advertising. They really didn’t do promotions. Margaret started as working part-time for the museum and part-time for the TDA. Then in 2004, she became full-time director of the TDA.
But it was the work of a very distinguished woman of Person County, Lois Winstead, then mayor, who had planted the seeds for Person County to start collecting the tax. She brought the idea of the occupancy tax to the attention of other local government officials, and soon it was introduced in the General Assembly by then Person County representative Mike Wilkins. Since then Lois has been very supportive of the PCTDA.
The PCTDA first had offices in the Person County Museum of History, then moved to a location on Reams Avenue where it remained until June 30, 2019. It is now housed in the old Kimbrough Florist at the intersection of Highways 157 and 501. The building was recently redone by local realtors James and Gaye Poindexter, who are leasing the space. It will serve as both offices for the PCTDA and a Welcome Center for the Roxboro and Person County area. Highly visible and easy to access, it is in an area where thousands of cars pass daily. As the center finds its way and people discover it, a variety of services will be available including WIFI and information about all events and sites to visit in the Person County and Roxboro area. Eventually there may be exhibits of local wares and displays to pique the interest to visit various locales.
What Does the PCTDA Do with Its Money
The PCTDA is totally funded by the Occupancy Tax. That means that not one cent of Person County’s taxpayers’ money is spent by the PCTDA. That is unless they have made use of one of the lodging facilities located in the county. In other words, the money comes from the heads of visitors in the beds of Roxboro and Person County lodgings. Usually local governments don’t have the time or the money to spend on tourism development and this is left up to the TDA’s. Two-thirds of the money is mandated to be used to promote travel and tourism by paying for advertising or supporting-non profit organizations with events that would bring people into the area from other places. The remainder of the money is to be spent on tourist-related expenditures. TDA’s can also allocate money to help improve the infrastructure of a region that has the potential to attract visitors. Some recent examples of this would include PCTDA support of the remodeling of the communication center at Person High School, the gym and multi-purpose room project at Roxboro Community School, the upgrade and enhancement of the Rock Sportsplex, the Merritt Commons Pavilion(donated the seed money), the Amphitheater at Mayo Lake, and the Upstairs Kirby Revitalization Project.
“With the economy being what it is, we need a good drawing card to bring people to Person County. The Kirby Cultural Arts Complex could be another destination for out-of-towners,” said Charley Bullock, former Chair of the TDA Board. “We have so many talented people in Person County and a lot to show visitors, such as the Person County History Museum. We want to continue to develop those opportunities.”
“We greatly appreciate the Person County TDA’s strong support of the Kirby Rebirth project,” said Dr. Walter Bartlett, former PCC President. “The TDA will be instrumental in developing these facilities as a local destination for our county’s visitors.”
The Person County Museum has continued to have strong support from the local TDA long after the mandated first 4-year period which continues to this day. Also supported are events like Personality, Pickin’ By the Lake sponsored by PCC, the Beach Music Festival at Hyco Lake sponsored by the Jaycees, the Person County Arts Council, the Public Art Works Project, the Person County Parks and Recreation in events like the Catfish Crawl, and the Sappony and their annual Trail Run. This is only a sampling of what the PCTDA helps support. In addition, the Quilt Trail, aided and promoted by the TDA, and the new welcome signs on every main road leading into the county are other evidence of its work.
But most of all it is all of Person County and Roxboro that receives the benefit, or at least that is what Margaret aims for. In furnishing the new office/Visitor Center she has supported local businesses and services by buying and contracting from them. Margaret is not only a big support of the local businesses and services; she is the face of tourism in Person County. Watching her work is a sight to behold. She is known across the state and her network of contacts is vast.
In case you didn’t realize those two distinguished women mentioned at the beginning are Lois Winstead and Margaret McMann.
So, what will the new Visitor Center mean to the area? Time will tell. It can only be hoped that it will be as good for our area as Margaret McMann.
Check out the following: https://itsbetterinperson.com/. And be sure to check out the new office and see what all the area has to offer. You might be surprised. 705 Durham Road, Roxboro, NC 27573 | (336) 597-2689
Norwood Walker has spent much of the last 60 years in a classroom on one side of the desk or the other. Loving to write poetry and stories in high school, his English teacher of 3 years once told him he might become a writer if he overcame his radical period. She is still waiting. He can be reached at norwoodwalker@gmail or Rainbow’s End on Facebook.