One-man tourism bureau wants world to 'Experience Everett'
Samuel Wilson / The Herald
Sean Straub, coordinator of the Experience Everett website, carries balloons around downtown Everett on Dec. 14 to businesses participating in the Shop & Sip, an event Straub organized to promote interest in the downtown area by having shops provide tastes of local beer, wine or cocktails.
Samuel Wilson / The Herald
Sean Straub, coordinator of the Experience Everett website, carries balloons around downtown Everett on Dec. 14, to small businesses participating in the Shop & Sip, an event Straub organized to help promote interest in the downtown area by having shops provide tastes of local beer, wine, or cocktails. The city of Everett contracted Straub to help promote tourism in the area.
He likes to think of Everett, his hometown, as "sophistigritty."
Words like "sophistigritty" seem natural from this smartly dressed 33-year-old.
Straub is heading into his third year running "Experience Everett," the city's tourism and social-media marketing effort, funded through the lodging tax on local hotel rooms.
He sees Everett as poised for a blue-collar renaissance, as has happened in Ballard and Portland.
"One of the things we've done with Experience Everett is embracing who we are," he said.
Straub recruits and promotes existing events, such as the Everett Craft Beer Festival and the Bubble Run 5k downtown last summer, and helps create new events, such as the Mobile Food Fest (a food truck festival), and "Shop and Sip," a downtown retail event before Christmas.
"I'm excited because there are things to be excited about in the Everett area," he said. "There have been a ton of cool things happening."
Everett hired Straub's one-man company, Videri, in 2012. The company name is inspired by the Latin phrase, "Esse quam videri," which exhorts people to "Be real." Straub tweaks the interpretation to fit with his own motto of "Be Seen."
The "Experience Everett" contract, including labor and marketing expenses, was for up to $120,000 for 2013, city officials said. The Facebook and Twitter pages combined have more than 8,100 followers.
Straub also contributes material to The Herald's monthly online "Go See Do" events roundup.
People come to Everett for primary attractions, such as aerospace, Comcast Arena, the Schack Art Center and the Imagine Children's Museum, Straub said. His job is to link them up with secondary attractions, such as restaurants and hotels.
"It's basically getting people to come to your area to live here, work here, play here, spend here, invest here," he said. Straub lists off Everett business names and tourism statistics the way some people talk about favorite TV shows. He's excited about the Kama'aina Grindz Hawaiian restaurant downtown, the newly opened Katana Sushi at 2818 Hewitt Ave., and the renovated Sol Food Bar & Grill, also on Hewitt.
"We're getting some really cool stuff in the restaurant scene," he said.
Everett and the immediate surrounding area also are now home to more than 30 craft breweries, wineries and distilleries, he said. There's a directory available at localliquidarts.com.
Tourism is the fourth-largest industry in Washington, said Carol Thomas, cultural arts manager for the city of Everett. Her work includes coordinating public art and live music shows.
Everett's big tourism-related initiatives right now are the new hotels expected to open and the farmers market project, she said.
"What I see is there are growing things to do," she said. "The offerings of things to do on the weekends and in the evenings are growing in Everett, and the more desirable we make it to live in Everett, the better it is for the health of the city."
Straub brings his connections to the business community and to young professionals, Thomas said.
"He's been a great fit, a tremendous fit for the position," she said. "He's very tech-savvy, he knows a lot about social media, and that is of course critical to driving any message out."
Straub grew up on the west side of Everett, off Mukilteo Boulevard, and attended Kamiak High School. His great-grandmother moved to Everett from Norway in the early 1900s.
His grandfather worked as a real estate broker in Everett.
Straub studied business and worked in the mortgage industry before the economic downturn, spending time in finance, banking and commercial real-estate. He found he liked local economic development, helping small businesses grow. He helped market the Library Place apartments, and more recently worked with film and TV crews that came to Everett, suggesting locations to fit their needs for specific scenes. He drew on his own experience in local real estate, for example, finding the right property when "The Architect" movie, starring Parker Posey, needed a house on a big lot on a bluff.
Straub also has meetings planned this spring with tour operators in British Columbia on ways to draw Seattle Premium Outlets shoppers from Canada a few more miles south into Everett.
One of Straub's greatest tourism marketing achievements was persuading his wife to move to Everett from Issaquah, he said.
Straub also offers assistance to Experience Snohomish, a similar effort run by that city's economic development manager, Debbie Emge.
It made sense for Everett to partner with Snohomish because a lot of Snohomish's offerings, including popular wedding venues, lead to hotel bookings in Everett, Straub said.
Unlike Experience Everett, Experience Snohomish is not supported by the lodging tax and does not organize its own events.
It's more about providing a portal to spread the word about local events, Emge said.
More people are using smart phones to find things to do in Snohomish, and social media is a economical way to draw them in, Emge said.
"When guests come to visit our city, they spend a lot of money in our restaurants and they buy gas and they shop in our stores, which all creates retail sales tax for our community," she said.
Rikki King: 425-339-3449; email@example.com.
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