By KAREN RIFKIN | for The Ukiah Daily Journal PUBLISHED: June 5, 2023

Save the date — Tuesday, July 11 from 4 to 6 p.m. — for the ribbon cutting and opening celebration of the new California Welcome Center at the Ukiah Valley Conference Center at 200 S. School St.

The Greater Ukiah Business and Tourism Alliance (GUBTA) has partnered with Visit California — a non-profit, self-tasked with developing and maintaining marketing programs to further develop tourism in California — through the statewide California Welcome Center Initiative, that now designates Ukiah as one of 23 California Welcome Centers throughout the state that provide resources and information to inspire visitors and locals to explore the greater region.

The entrance to the Conference Center is undergoing a transformation. Braggadoon Fine Art Graphic Design Display wallpapered the front panels of the lobby with enlargements of Tom Liden’s photographs; Banners & Signs installed the logo decals designed by Kali Gordon of Ren/Alexander Design on the front windows facing School Street; Norm Kessen installed Redwood 1-inch by 4-inch decorative trim grade, donated by Mendocino Forest Products, below the guest station.

California Welcome Center Ukiah flags will go out front on the sidewalk on School Street, and Big U gateway signs, created by Paramount Sign Contractors, have been installed on Highway 101— one on Frost Pauli’s property on the north end of town and one on Rivino’s property at the south end. California Welcome Center Exit signage will        be put up at the north and south Perkins Street       entrances with additional directional signs on Perkins Street directing visitors west into downtown.  

“Deputy Manager Shannon Riley and the City of Ukiah have been working with us on this,” says GUBTA Executive Director Katrina Kessen. On May 10-12, GUBTA Board President Stephanie Dunken and Kessen attended the California Welcome Center Spring Strategic. Planning Meeting in Torrance.

“We talked to those who represent other communities with Welcome Centers to find out what it means to them. It’s one thing to hear about it from the perspective of Visit California but it’s another to talk to the boots-on-the-ground people,” says Kessen.

“We were asked by others how we were doing it because in some communities there’s a divide between the tourism agency and the chamber of commerce. We were able to share how our organization merged — the logic behind it and the process. Because of that, we were a standout among the other visitor centers.”

When the people from Visit California came for their site visit last year, they took note of the fact that the entire Ukiah community was represented.

“This is unique. We get used to the collaborative nature that we have here but when it’s put into a different context and held up to what other organizations experience in other communities, we realize that we have something special. We couldn’t do this without partnerships and support and I’m very grateful for all of it.

“We’re only touching the surface of the potential of what this could be for our community. There’s a lot more for us to learn about how we want to build this out and further our collaboration and Kessen says it is now up to us to decide what we want to share, sending our stories out into the greater community, referring visitors and locals to places, near and far.

This will benefit those already living here, those looking to relocate and for employee retention.  GUBTA staff have been meeting with professionals interviewing with Adventist Health who want to learn more about the area.

“There’s a lot of potential, as we live and grow with this, that we can develop. It’s amazing when I think about all the people who are helping… but it’s what we do here; we really come together.

“I’m excited to see it open and be on the other side of it, to see what kinds of stories we’re going to write moving forward. I believe this is going to be a great blessing for our community.”

For more info or to RSVP:

California Welcome Center Ukiah: Grand Opening Set for July 11