The Eastern Carolina Aviation Heritage Foundation has received a $50,000 grant from the Harold Bate Foundation.
Diane Miller, grants manager for Havelock, said the money is to be used to help develop a marketing, outreach and education project and to enlarge the subject and scope of the foundation’s exhibits at the Havelock Tourist and Event Center.
The foundation is expected to receive the money sometime after Jan. 15.
The money will finance the next phase of a project that the organization has been working on to assess what the real audience is for the exhibits.
Earlier this year, Havelock funded a $35,000 study by Impact Communications to identify the foundation’s target audience, determine the feasibility of a multimillion dollar expansion of the exhibit spaces and gauge interest. Another $3,000 was spent to hire East Carolina University to draw up a business plan for the organization.
"The Bate Foundation grant was the next step from that research and moving forward to see if the expansion was justified," Miller said. "Will it be supported? Will the capital campaign be effective? Should they put resources into a capital campaign and would it be successful? And should they go through with the capital campaign and is the expansion going to be an adequate return on the investment?"
The grant would also be used to hire an individual or firm to work full time on marketing the exhibits at the tourist center.
The individual or firm would survey and make presentations to audiences, potential visitors, and potential donating organizations that would benefit from the exhibits and the expansion.
The target audiences would be in Craven, Carteret and Pamlico counties, including schools, community colleges and community organizations.
In addition, presentations to tourist and development authorities, defense contractors, military personnel and other tourist attraction facilities would help build mutually beneficial relationships, Miller said.
"While some local schools visit the facility, the intent is to connect the exhibits to the standard course of study objectives, most especially for fourth- and eighth-graders who concentrate on North Carolina as a standard course of study and emphasize the (science, technology, engineering and math) skills for careers in aviation," she said.
Miller said she expects visitor counts to double as the outreach project is completed.
Part of the grant request was to give a more interactive feel to the exhibits.
"Hands on exhibits would necessarily increase the traffic tremendously," Miller said. "Anything that gives them a tactile connection to the exhibits would benefit us."
Miller said that expansion and promotion of the exhibits goes hand in hand with the city’s ongoing efforts to develop a recreational area at the adjacent Slocum Creek site.
Miller said that the effort is to create a reason for people to make Havelock a destination instead of just a place to pass through.