Council allocates $649,000 to RACVB for new California Welcome Center

Council allocates $649,000 to RACVB for new California Welcome CenterRidgecrest Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (RACVB) Kari Crutcher – The Ridgecrest City Council voted recently 5-0 to allocate a portion of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to the RACVB for the new California Welcome Center - Ridgecrest, which has been in development over the past year. The funding amount is $649,000, or less than 10% of Ridgecrest’s federal allocation, which will go to the center’s construction, production, and fabrication costs.

The city of Ridgecrest is the recipient of nearly $7 million in federal funding as part of the Biden administration. The plan funds several sectors of America’s economic system, including cities and towns needing support. Eligible recipients can use the funds to replace lost revenue, strengthen public services, and support economic stabilization through flexible allocation. The act was signed into law on March 11, 2021, with $25 billion distributed equally among the states and the District of Columbia. The balance of funding is allocated using a formula based on unemployment levels.

“The construction of the California Welcome Center expands on a much-needed service the entire city of Ridgecrest will benefit from. I look forward to seeing just how this investment will grow the RACVB’s mission to bring people to our community,” says Kyle Blades, Ridgecrest City Councilman. The RACVB received designation from Visit California to become a California Welcome Center in 2019, but, the pandemic halted the project.

The designation from the state’s leading tourism agency has traditionally led to a significant increase in the percentage of travel-generated employment for each region represented. With Ridgecrest joining the Visit California family, access and exposure to millions of people visiting California will be exponentially higher for businesses in the Ridgecrest region. The Ridgecrest Regional Film Commission also expects to see a significant return from this statewide exposure to filmmakers. The RACVB office and new Welcome Center will occupy the former Goodwill Building at 880 N. China Lake Blvd.

“The RACVB has sustained losses during the pandemic, and are thrilled that the City of Ridgecrest recognizes the value of filming and tourism, which are vital to the region’s economic well-being,” says Kari Crutcher, Executive Director of the RACVB. “The investment the city has earmarked for travel and tourism from these federal funds will greatly enhance our efforts to bring a world-class welcome center for the Indian Wells Valley.”

A grand opening celebration and ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for Friday, November 5 at 5pm.

The flexibility in ARPA fund allocation allows the city to strategically use funds for long-term investments like the California Welcome Center, which will enhance financial stability and commercial interest in Ridgecrest for years to come. Councilman Blades said, “Tourism is still, in my opinion, relatively untapped in this area, and I’m confident that with this Welcome Center and support from the community, the message will spread about what a beautiful place Ridgecrest is.” With the US Travel Association forecasting an increase of nearly 25% in domestic travel spending, and an increase by almost 125% in international travel spending for 2022, Ridgecrest will have an opportunity to grab the attention of travelers who have been ready and waiting with the help of these ARPA funds.

The US Travel Association also outlined the economic impact travel has in the 23rd Congressional District, including Ridgecrest. In 2019, the district had $1.9 Billion in travel spending, and $575.1 Million in payroll, supporting over 15,000 jobs, most of which are in travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.

Laura Austin photo: California Welcome Center highway signs announce the new center now coming to Ridgecrest. The RACVB office and Welcome Center will occupy the former Goodwill Building at 880 N. China Lake Blvd.

Story First Published: 2021-10-22