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Mendocino County Regional Marketing Efforts

The Issue

Mendocino County’s economy is undergoing a fundamental shift. In 1970, 42% of the workforce was employed in timber and fishing. Today, only 7% work in those industries, nd both are declining in economic activity. Meanwhile, tourism and agriculture have grown greatly in value. In fact, the two leading industries are wine and lodging, both of which are dominated by relatively small businesses that are family-owned and employ less than 20 people. Food processing and similar businesses are also small and find it difficult to compete. Small businesses seem to do best in market niches that require effective promotion and marketing, but many of them cannot afford that expertise.

What Has ANR Done?

Recognizing the need to support Mendocino County's many small food producers and processors, a coordinated effort was begun to promote the county as a food and wine region. In the early 1990's, UCCE helped to organize five Mendocino Bounty Food and Wine Showcase public tasting events to demonstrate the diversity and high quality of local food and wine. The events were immensely popular, drawing as many as 3,000.

Next, UCCE and Mendocino County were successful in receiving $65,000 for a study on feasibility of promoting regional tourism and agriculture. The study included a very detailed situation analysis looking at the capacity of existing businesses and their ability to grow. It also exmined how other regional tourism and agricultural promotions are organized and function, and what would be a reasonable model for Mendocino County.

The Payoff

Mendocino County has increased tourism with high quality food and produce

The Mendocino County Promotional Alliance has been formed as a non-profit “organization of organizations” to promote our county as a significant tourist destination with excellent food and wine. Participants in the Alliance represent lodging, wine, agricultural producers, tourist attractions and chambers of commerce. Funded with a county lodging bed tax, the program also receives matching funds and in-kind services from its members. Annual budgets are now approaching $700,000 per year, and tourism has substantially increased.

Activities include two county festivals during the off season when visitor numbers are down, “FAM Tours” organized for food and wine writers, group advertising in newspapers and magazines, an official Mendocino County Tourism Website (gomendo.com), official visitors guide and a political advocacy group for the tourism and wine industry. The Alliance is now forming two business improvement districts that will generate additional funding. UCCE continues as occasional advisor, but the group has gained its own autonomy and is functioning very well.


Supporting Unit: Mendocino County

Glenn McGourty, Viticulture & Plant Science Advisor, UCCE Mendocino County, 579 Low Gap Road, Ukiah, CA 95482
(707) 463-4495 gtmcgourty@ucdavis.edu