Stokes County will soon have its own smart-phone app.
The new app, developed by the county economic development department through developer Bluebridge, will be called the Hanging Rock app and is aimed at helping both tourists and residents connect with all the county has to offer.
“We wanted to take a leap forward with technology and see what it could do for us,” said Interim Economic Development Director David Sudderth. “Instead of just taking baby steps we took a bigger leap. This department had been so paper oriented, we first started looking at doing a digital guide to the county to get rid of some of the paper cost and the next thing we knew we were talking about doing an app. This is just a first step and hopefully it will be a building process.”
The free app is currently being submitted to both the Apple App Store and Google Play and should be available for download by next week.
“Just search for Hanging Rock or Stokes County and it will pop up,” said Tori Mabe who has spearheaded development of the app for the county.
He said the app will provide easy access to a lot of information about places int he county from restaurants to entertainment to places to stay.
“We have five tabs on the main screen: Eat, Stay, Play, Events, and More,” said Mabe, noting that the app can use a phone’s GPS to provide geolocated data. “So if you are from the northern part of the county and and you are in King and want to find a place to eat, it will show you what is nearby sorted by distance.”
He said the list of restaurants is culled from Health Department restaurant permits, so it is a comprehensive list throughout the county.
“I have put in as much information as I can,” said Mabe. “I went online and tried to find menus for the restaurants to link to. If a restaurant does not have an online menu they can just email me a pdf of their menu and I can link it into the app.”
Other user friendly features of the app include being able to tap a number to call the restaurant to order ahead, linking to any of the listed business on Facebook, Twitter or other social media and adding events to a user’s phone’s calendar.
“The Stay tab includes listings of campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, and rental homes,” said Mabe. “The app is representative of the whole county. It has all the restaurants, and we are hoping to have a good listing of the businesses that were already listed on haningrock.com.”
He added that business do not have to pay to be listed in the app, they just need to contact the county economic development department.
The app also features a Play tab which lists everything from historical sites in the county to outdoor adventure offerings like ziplines, kayaking, and tubing, to arts and music venues to information about all of the parks in the county, including town and city parks like Central Park and Moratock Park.
“The play tab also includes a link to shopping categories including general stores and antique places,” said Mabe. “We have the opportunity to add even more categories for county stores as the app grows.”
The Events tab links directly to the county’s Everwonder calendar, a calendar of local events populated by area businesses like Carolina Ziplines, Singletree Gun and Plough and Jessups Mill.
“It is designed so that it can show events within a 15 mile radius of where you are,” said Mabe. “The calendar is updated by iCal in the app so everything is always up-to-date and refreshed.”
The final tab, “More,” includes links to county social media sites, the county government web page, additional information about the county and videos welcoming users to the area.
“The app is costing the county about $10,000 for a two year period,” said Sudderth. “That is below what we were spending on printing fliers for the area. It really turned out be very reasonable compared to what we hope it will provide. This app gives us the exponential ability to branch out and make Stokes County worldwide.”
He added that the company that developed the app had also produced similar apps for Lexington and Gatlinburg, Tenn.
“With the demographics of the people who come to this area, it is a more youthful group and everybody is living on their phones,” said Sudderth. “This just seemed like a logical step.”
The county plans to debut the new app at the Stokes Stomp on Sept. 12.
“Then we will have information available at Reach the Peaks at the end of the month and at KingFest in October,” said Mabe. “We hope people will like the idea that Stokes County and Hanging Rock have an app and they will have it on their phone and be able to reference it any time they are in the area or be able to plan a trip to the area using it.”
He said the county will be adjusting its tourism advertisements on public radio to encourage visitors to download the app and added that they hope to be able to work with local business to help promote it.
“This gives visitors an opportunity to connect with all of the businesses in the county and they all have an opportunity to connect to the app,” said Sudderth.
Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.