Collen Hanson

Colleen Hanson stands outside of the Visit Potter-Tioga Visitors Center.

Many people in positions that can affect change don’t use the opportunity to help those in need, but executive director of Visit Potter-Tioga, Colleen Hanson, is using her position to try and better the communities she is a part of.

Hanson started out as the membership coordinator of Visit Potter-Tioga nine years ago and with 15 years of working with her church as a secretary, she developed that desire to help those in needs.

“It was in that position I developed a passion for helping those in need. I found real satisfaction in identifying the needs of our residents and helping them resolve those needs.” Hanson said “I have spent the last nine years as the membership coordinator and now executive director helping small business owners and non-profit organizations resolve challenges, meet their needs and thrive,” she said.

One of the main functions of Hanson’s position is to promote tourism, one of the biggest industries in the two counties, and help area businesses who operate with limited resources.

“When they have a need or a problem they are unable to resolve, I connect them with the folks who can help them. Whether through a federal or state connection, or through my partnering with local organizations, there are lots of resources for small businesses,” Hanson said.

Her work to help not only promote the area, but also to help the businesses of the area thrive has been invaluable to the communities she helps. Since the merger of the Tioga County Visitors Bureau and the Potter County Visitors Association into the now Visit Potter-Tioga, there has been a significant jump in the number of tourists and income brought into these areas through that tourism which is all directly connected to the efforts of Hanson and her organization.

Over the past year, Visit Potter-Tioga has continued to push the envelope and try and do more and more for their communities.

“Last year, we completely restructured VPT. We have a new staff and a new approach to marketing. We have several projects in the works designed to increase awareness of all this area has to offer, thus increasing visitation,” Hanson wrote in regards to what they have accomplished in just the last year.

The organization hasn’t stopped there and continues to strive to accomplish new projects that will in turn help to push and accomplish even more.

“We also have some upcoming projects which focus on educational opportunities for business owners,” Hanson said.

“In addition to marketing, VPT has become a resource for the businesses and over the last 10 years, I am proud to say I have helped a lot of people with a lot of things. One day I’m sitting next to someone helping them create a website. Then I’m online helping somebody create a brochure. And on another day I might be helping a business owner create a Facebook page for their business. These seem like easy things but for some folks, it’s not that simple at all. They have no idea,” Hanson said.

Being an Unsung Hero of her communiy, Hanson never saw herself that way. She has always been one to put the needs of others over recognition of the things she has done. Doing the right thing is far and away the main purpose for her drive and passion in what she does.

“I just do what I think is right. Anyone who has a position in which they can help others, should. As the executive director of VPT, I am in a position to help business owners and non-profit organizations be successful which consequently helps improve the quality of life for their employees, our residents. I am able to help connect business owners with the resources they need, fund the advertising of local events and make a positive impact in our community,” Hanson said.

With all of the positive impact, there is still a lot of work to be done to continue the climb to the betterment of the communities that she holds so dear, but Hanson is more than willing to go the extra mile to attain these goals.

“Somebody would tell me something they needed and they didn’t know where to go. So I would do the legwork and would figure it out for them. And when someone else came looking for that same information, I already had it,” Hanson commented.

“Tourism is one of the top three industries in Tioga County, and it’s one of the few industries currently creating jobs. I’m just using every tool at my disposal to make that economic impact as strong as possible,” Hanson said.

“Our members are the businesses we represent, 99 percent of our businesses are small, really small. Sole proprietors or maybe a married couple. And they have tons of needs – help with taxes, signage, personnel issues - and they just don’t know where to go,” Hanson said.

As Tioga and Potter counties continue to move themselves in the right direction when it comes to capitalizing on economic opportunities that the boom of tourism has brought to the area, remember there are some Unsung Heroes nestled into our communities who are helping our communities continue to thrive, and Hanson is one of them.