The new executive director of the Middletown Visitors Bureau is already enthusiastic about the dedicated, passionate group of people working to help outsiders understand the city’s “awesome” aspects.
Mary Huttlinger earned her undergraduate degree in business from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff and a graduate degree (MBA) from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. She has worked in politics at the federal level, owned and operated a small retail store and consulted with small businesses and nonprofits nationwide to help them maximize messaging, increase efficiencies and expand market share.
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Huttlinger said she’s excited about working in her new role with the visitors bureau, whose office will be housed in the Middletown Chamber of Commerce offices on Central Avenue, and sees an endless amount of possibilities to promote and raise awareness about Middletown. We asked her a few questions regarding her taking over the new role:
Q. What achievement(s) or experiences in your past have prepared you to take on the challenge of promoting visits to the city?
A: As a former staffer for several different members of Congress, I had to immerse myself in the communities and learn the history and subtle nuances that made each of these communities so unique and wonderfully American. This experience afforded me the chance to create programs that best represented the people who lived, worked and played in these communities. A few examples include creating a customized workforce development program for Camden, New Jersey, and crafting an economic revitalization plan for Marietta, Ohio. Both of these cities had undergone similar journeys to what Middletown is now experiencing. It’s my intention to use the same approach in Middletown to craft a story that is captivating, exciting and highlights the vibrant history and people of our city.
Q. What’s the most surprising thing you learned about Middletown as you entered this role?
A: “The most surprising thing I learned about Middletown is how rich its history is and how energetic and committed its community members are to helping visitors appreciate this captivating city in America’s heartland. Middletown residents are proud of their city, and they should be!”
Q. How challenging is it generate buzz about a city that has received negative attention on the national level for some of the challenges facing numerous other cities nationwide?
A: People absolutely love to support an underdog. Middletown’s message should be ‘Hey, we may have experienced some bumps and bruises along the way but our 186-year heritage has proven that we’ll continue to be the gem of Southwestern Ohio.’ From a quaint Main Street to offbeat indie restaurants, to edgy sporting experiences and family-friendly festivals, there is so much for newcomers to discover. Middletown is not just a waypoint in between Cincinnati and Dayton, we are an exciting and unique community and shouldn’t be shy about rolling out the welcome mat.
Q: What sort of events have you seen or heard of in other cities that you believe would work well in attracting people to Middletown?
A: “Every community has something uniquely theirs, and Middletown is no different. Middletown has many amazing opportunities including its proximity to the river, the growing number of independent restaurants, and the historic architecture found in many of its surrounding homes and buildings. My job isn’t to copy an event from another community but to capture the essence of Middletown and work with community leaders to present programs and events to visitors in a way so that they cannot wait to come visit us!”
Q: What indicators have you seen that show the city is heading in the right direction?
A: “In my experience, all successful initiatives start with a grassroots movement, and boy does Middletown have a movement. From City Hall to small business owners, to high school kids and moms, Middletown has a dedicated and passionate group of folks who are committed to helping outsiders understand how awesome Middletown really is. But what is really exciting are all of the new initiatives such as the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) and The Great Miami Riverway project which will only add to the appeal of visiting Middletown. It’s these kinds of innovative programming that help keep things fresh and exciting for repeat visitors.”