To do that, Market Staging is using the Internet. With data purchased from the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs, the tech gurus there can discern where people with certain illnesses live. Then, through the magic of keywords and other search-engine trickery, they can ensure that Aurora hospitals show up high in the results when a person Googles that particular malady. The test case is a lung condition known as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD. The University of Colorado Hospital happens to have a specialized COPD center, and its doctors are tops in the nation.

"If you were to Google COPD right now in a particular zip code, what would commonly come up is the Wikipedia definition of COPD," says Jason Botticelli, the vice president of business development at Market Staging. "What we're doing is working with Visit Aurora to increase their visibility by geography. If someone in Pueblo...types COPD into Google, Yahoo or Bing, the first thing that will pop up is Visit Aurora."

When they click, Visit Aurora's website has links to the hospitals themselves, as well as how to contact individual doctors. And since most of the treatment for COPD is outpatient, there's also information about hotels to stay at while in Aurora and options for how to get to the city, from Denver International Airport to Denver's Yellow Cab.

Market Staging developed the model with Visit Aurora for free, with an eye toward selling it to other visitor bureaus. (If they do, Aurora gets a 5 percent cut.) Now that the website is live, Visit Aurora is paying $20,000 a year to Market Staging, which is still tweaking the system to make it work smoothly.

"We see this evolving health-care mecca in Aurora as a real opportunity for us to learn more about how destination marketing organizations can leverage that on behalf of their community and build some business," says Market Staging CEO Bob Durham.

It's still too early to tell whether it's luring more COPD patients to Aurora, but both entities are hopeful.

People are forever confusing Aurora, Colorado, with Aurora, Illinois, the Chicago suburb and home town of fictional slackers Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar of Wayne's World.

"We've gone to some national [tourism] shows and then, 'Oh, Aurora, Illinois?'" Wheat says. "One of the challenges is establishing our identity as a destination." In 2012, Visit Aurora hopes to come up with a brand message to do just that. "What are we going to tell the visitor when we're engaging them?" he says. "What do we say about Aurora?"

In the meantime, Visit Aurora is working to build relationships with entities who do know who they are. The organization has collaborated with the Vail Valley Partnership, which promotes the iconic ski destination. Aurora agreed to make Vail the city's "official ski destination," and in return, Vail Valley has promised to direct its out-of-state visitors to stay at Aurora hotels near DIA on their way in and out.

Visit Aurora also has a hand in helping the Aurora Arts District, which has struggled to find its identity and attract visitors. The group plans to make the district's few theaters and art galleries the focus of its next "webisode," a short promo video posted on the website. (The first was about Dry Dock Brewing.) And Visit Aurora supports efforts to bring more attractions to town, such as the Colorado Freedom Memorial, a planned monument to the state's fallen soldiers, and a proposed 1,500-room hotel and conference center that Tennessee-based Gaylord Entertainment wants to build in the city.

Former mayor Ed Tauer, who helmed the city for eight years immediately following his father Paul's sixteen-year term, compared its potential impact to that of Denver establishing the Colorado Rockies baseball team. The Aurora City Council has already granted the Gaylord project $300 million in incentives, but Aurora is still seeking $85 million in state subsidies to make the mega-project feasible. Last year, there was talk that the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, which needs more space, could relocate to Aurora to be next to the hotel. But that option seems off the table for now, with Mayor Hogan insisting that the city isn't trying to steal the Stock Show from Denver.

Stock Show or not, Aurora's clout seems to be growing. The city, which is split between Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, will finally have a single representative in Congress after the most recent redistricting effort. "The City of Aurora...generates a good deal of the metro area's economic development activity," wrote Denver District Judge Robert Hyatt, who oversaw the changes. "It has major regional facilities, including a military base and a medical research facility; it has its own law enforcement and fire departments; it is a leader in bridging metropolitan water solutions. Given that, and because there is no advantage to Aurora to have its Congressional representation divided, it must be made whole."

While Visit Aurora hopes the attention from the next congressional election will boost the city's profile, those decisions are out of its hands. Wheat and his crew mostly concentrate on the day-to-day, which can involve a lot of grunt work. On a recent sunny Thursday, Wheat and Bleakley packed Wheat's ten-year-old Honda Pilot with boxes full of Aurora's new dining guide, called YUM, which lists over 150 of the city's independently owned and ethnic restaurants, categorized by cuisine. Also in Wheat's trunk was a case of beer. DeLange, of Dry Dock, bottled some of his award-winning hefeweizen for Visit Aurora's one-year anniversary, and Peters designed the label: a photo of fireworks over the city.

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8 comments
Payton_vege
Payton_vege

Amazing write-up! This could aid plenty of people find out more about this particular issue. Are you keen to integrate video clips coupled with these? It would absolutely help out. Your conclusion was spot on and thanks to you; I probably won’t have to describe everything to my pals. I can simply direct them here!

Cécile Elliott
Cécile Elliott

Instead of trying to make Aurora a tourist destination they should think about making it bearable for its residents to live there. I live a mile from the City Center and I wouldn't recommend a tourist let alone residents to walk around the Aurora City Center at night. Aurora is Denver's ghetto. Their economic development board is WAY off if they think bringing powerlifting tournaments and tropical fish conventions to Aurora is the best way to help.

calhounp
calhounp

i'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition, ideally with the author's full name and town. If that's okay, e-mail me at patricia.calhoun@westword.com

lunkwill
lunkwill

You know, Aurora may not be exotic, but at least our street names are ... here's lookin' at you, Monaco, Quebec, Havana, Jamaica, Lima and Paris St...

Sabrina D'Agosta
Sabrina D'Agosta

I grew up in Aurora and about the only reason I'd even consider visiting nowadays is for the Fox Theater or if my kid needed emergency treatment at the new Children's Hospital. Good luck with that marketing campaign.

Krlkwil
Krlkwil

I also am a lifelong resident of Aurora Colorado it is an okay place to live but if I want entertainment of any kind generally I go to Denver. The city is definitely not a place to make as a destination for recreation. What a waste of tax dollars. Sad but true, If you do come to visit bring your bullet proof vest and pack a 9mm or better because the cops are completely worthless and run from the gangs not to them.

lunkwill
lunkwill

I'm an Aurora native, have spent decades living in every corner of the city, and have love and best wishes for this city as such... but I just made the mistake of trying to swallow my coffee at the same time I got to the part about Aurora "making sense" as a "destination city". Perhaps 'Visit Aurora' has yet to 'visit Aurora'.

If I ever get on Wheel of Fortune and win an exotic vacation to Aurora, I'll be pissed.

 
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