Jody Franklin, director of tourism for the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce, loves her job. Even if she didn’t tell you this, her enthusiasm about El Dorado County would give it away.
Franklin has been promoting El Dorado County as director of tourism for five years and recently received recognition from the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce and the Visitors Authority for her outstanding service.
Born and raised in El Dorado County, Franklin grew up with her parents’ strong community involvement. They were owners of Rescue Catering for 45 years and her mother, Betty Franklin, is a former president of the El Dorado County Chamber of Commerce.
“I went to college in San Diego and got a degree in broadcast journalism,” said Franklin, 50. “When I discovered I was only getting jobs that paid about $7 an hour, I decided to come back home and start my own business with the support I would have from my family.”
Her video production business was a 20-year career and then, at age 45, Franklin decided to make a change. “I love attention and being in front of people so I thought of being some kind of tour guide.”
“I knew how the chamber worked from watching my mother’s involvement for many years and I thought it would be perfect for me,” said Franklin. An opening for Russell’s position seemed years away.
“Then, in the following week, Sue announced her retirement,” said Franklin. “I applied immediately and bugged Laurel Brent-Bumb, El Dorado County Chamber executive director, for a month. I think she hired me just to have some peace.”
Although she’s lived here all her life, Franklin said she’s learned more about El Dorado County in the last five years than she ever imagined she could.
“I’ve been to the far corners of El Dorado County and I love the diversity we have, the small town atmosphere and being able to call someone in business and have an actual conversation. Those are things we’ve always had, but now the world is taking notice. People want an authentic experience and we can offer that,” she said.
Franklin’s job includes representing El Dorado County at trade and travel shows, marketing the county in the targeted 3 to 5 hour drive market and looking for new markets.
“We look at why people come here, where they stay, what they spend money on,” said Franklin. “People really want to know about this area — we are the center of the Gold Rush, with whitewater rafting and 70 wineries and that’s big right now.”
El Dorado County’s dog friendliness is also a big attraction for those who don’t want to leave Fido behind, a new trend. The El Dorado County Visitors Guide marks dog friendly businesses and hotels with a pawprint and lists them in BringFido.com.
“Another new market we are just scratching the surface of is group tours,” said Franklin. “When people come to a new place, they need a friend to tell them where to eat, what there is to do, where they can stay. We want to be that friend. Before, we let people find us; now we’re telling them where we are and what we have to offer.”
The Rescue resident is married, with an 18-year-old daughter. The community investment she’s made through volunteering at the Rescue Community Center, schools and with her daughter’s softball teams has helped with her job, too.
“Our entire family was brought up that way,” said Franklin. “We all volunteer.”
Energetic and enthusiastic, Franklin continues to move with the times and work with the Visitors Authority partners.
“This isn’t Disneyland; we need to work in harmony with our partners like the Apple Hill growers and the wineries. I’m working with people I went to school with and that’s a lot of fun.”
Social media is now a big part of the marketing.
“We have an app and a Facebook page, but print is not dead. Our Visitors Guide is proof of that, but we target it to the demographic that uses it — women over 40,” said Franklin. ” We try to be available on all fronts to reach people in the format they want to use.”
“We also have a brand-new thing called the ‘El Dorado Stay and Play Shuttle,’” said Franklin. “If you have an event in El Dorado County and book 15 or more room nights, we can provide the transportation to and from the event. People are chomping at the bit to do this.”
Lack of hotel space has been an issue in the county, but Franklin said there is more than meets the eye. “People don’t always want branded hotels; they are looking for something unique and we have great bed-and-breakfasts all over the county.
“A lot of locals use, really use, our downtown and that makes us unique. We have parades and volunteer fire departments and that is something visitors really want in a town,” said Franklin. “For myself, I love to see young business owners who embrace our history and take it up a notch.”
To contact the Visitors Authority call 530-621-5885 or stop by 542 Main St. in Placerville.
Contact Wendy Schultz at 530 344-5069 or [email protected] Follow @wschultzMtDemo on Twitter.