‘Welcome to Gilroy and California’

The Garlic City secured a new spot on the California state map as the month of March began. The Gilroy welcome center is now a designated state welcome center, one of just 18 throughout California.

The new designation will provide state money to promote Gilroy and new signage to indicate to visitors that a state welcome center is in the city.

A celebration of the rebranding March 1 was a who’s who of city officials, with council members, the mayor and Chamber of Commerce members all present.

“By bringing people into our community, they spend money,” said Jane Howard, director of Visit Gilroy, which staffs the site. “If they hear more about Gilroy they might say, ‘Let’s just stay another day.’”

The work toward the new designation began in 2011, when the welcome center moved from its downtown location to a larger space by the Gilroy Outlet Mall. The board first applied for the California welcome center designation eight years ago but was rejected.

Howard said the main reason the application was rejected was because the visitor’s center was unable to operate 360 days a year at the time. After the center was more established, Howard said, the board decided to apply again. This time around, Gilroy was one of four cities tapped to be a state visitor center.

Howard said that since the move in 2011, the center has seen 260,000 visitors from 125 different countries.

Bringing tourism to the city has been the focus of local politicians in recent years, with efforts to revitalize the downtown and promote local businesses. Howard believed the new designation would bring more people to the city and might entice them to stay longer.

The welcome center currently receives $300,000 in annual funding from the city, with additional funds coming from the city’s tourism business inclusion district (TBID). TBIDs establish a tax paid by hoteliers that goes toward tourism promotion in a city.

Howard said that with the new designation comes $250,000 in marketing from Visit California, including being listed in the state visitor’s guide and a website through Visit California.

Now Gilroy residents can expect to see new signs along Highways 101 and 152 advertising the local California welcome center.