Touting Chesco attractions in high-tech style

The manager of guest services for the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau hatched an idea that mushroomed– an appropriate result for an agency whose promotions include Kennett Square.

Scott Miller of Miller Designworks, Chester County Commissioners' Chairman Terence Farrell, state Rep. Duane Milne, and CCCVB's Jan Reeps and Susan Hamly participate in the ribbon-cutting.

Scott Miller of Miller Designworks, Chester County Commissioners' Chairman Terence Farrell, state Rep. Duane Milne, and CCCVB's Jan Reeps and Susan Hamly participate in the ribbon-cutting.

On Monday, Aug. 29, Jan Reeps said she had been thinking about a way to encourage visitors to the Tourism Information Center to linger. After all, the more people see and hear about Chester County’s attractions, the more likely they are to stay longer – benefitting the local economy.

Reeps was one of a handful of speakers at the ribbon-cutting for a one-of-a-kind, touch-screen “bridge,” an immersive, interactive tool for receiving information about Chester County at the Tourism Information Center, located on Greenwood Road near the entrance to Longwood Gardens. The new technology debuted to an appreciative crowd that included Chester County Commissioners’ Chairman Terence Farrell and state Rep. Duane Milne, R-167.

Susan Hamly, the CCCVB’s executive director, said she quickly recognized the value of Reeps’ idea to engage visitors with a large touch screen for identifying places to see and eat rather than distributing brochures. “Our job is to generate overnight stays,” she explained.

Scott

Scott Sharadin of Miller Designworks (from left) explains the new system to state Rep. Duane Milne, R-167, and Chester County Commissioners' Chairman Terence Farrell.

She said the bureau enlisted the services of Miller Designworks in Phoenixville to design the system, which required rearranging the space in the historic building, once a Quaker meetinghouse and hub for abolitionists.

Hamly said Miller Designworks loved the concept, but then she threw them a curve: The room where the large tabletop-type screens would sit had formerly housed a conference table. Was there any way to make the system do double duty, she wondered.

Fortunately for CCCVB, Scott Miller knew that carpenter Mike Ennis was up to the task. Ennis designed a truss-style wooden frame that supports two angled screens. “It’s essentially a covered bridge made from reclaimed lumber,” Miller said.

Ennis then added a motorized system that flattens the screens so that the former barn wood can double as a conference table when needed. The room also features a digital, wall-mounted display to spotlight daily and weekly events.

The base of the system was constructed from reclaimed Chester County barn wood.

The base of the system is constructed of reclaimed Chester County barn wood.

Scott Sharadin of Miller Designworks said visitors can tap one of six postcards on one of two large screens to get in-depth information on farms and fields, history, gardens, recreation, arts, and main streets.

“I love the wow factor,” said Milne, noting that it’s exciting to see the county’s attractions presented in such an engaging format.

Reeps said the system, which has been operational during a two-week testing phase, has already produced impressive results. Previously, the average time that visitors spent in the building was two to five minutes, she said. “Now, people are staying no less than 15,” she said.

In addition, she’s hearing people say that they need to stay longer or plan another trip.

Farrell acknowledged that there might be a slight downside to touting the county so effectively, but one that he’s prepared to handle.

“Once people see what Chester County has to offer, they want to move here,” he said. “We’re the fastest-growing county in the commonwealth.”

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