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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

TDC Proposes Major Changes

Abandoning Civic Center Project, Hiring Full Time Director of Tourism, Modification of Tourism Strategies

By Sid Riley

At Wednesday’s workshop meeting of the Tourist Development Council, several new concepts and strategies were discussed. A planning committee consisting of Marianna Mayor, Paul Donofro, Jr. and Chamber Executive, Art Kimbrough presented these new approaches to the Council members in preparation for a joint workshop meeting next week with the County Commission. The proposed changes were presented by Art Kimbrough.

A very significant portion of the proposal involves having the TDC abandon the concept of building a multi-million dollar civic center. This project was the justification for adding a second 2% to the local bed tax several years ago. This earmarked fund now is approaching $1,000,000, but the need and justification for this center has been questioned by many, and has been in decreasing favor.

Another group associated with the TDC has been advocating hiring a full time Director of Tourism to engage in tourism development activities and programs promoting our area statewide and on a national basis. The anticipated salary for this position is $35,000 to $45,000 with a total functional cost of $96,000 per year. Since the revenues from the 2% additional bed tax are around $120,000 per year, the TDC is essentially trading the Civic Center concept for a Tourism Director. The $927,139 which has been accumulated for the Civic Center would be held for future needs and reserves.

If the Tourism Director job is created, the TDC would then have a projected $132,000 per year available for advertising, events support, and capital. The new strategies being proposed would target spending equal amounts of $44,000 on each. In the past three years, the TDC has spent only 11% on advertising while it spent 54% on events and 35% on capital. This new approach would spend 33% on each, thus greatly increasing the amount of regional advertising for tourism in the county.

In presenting the proposal for funding the new Tourism Director position, Kimbrough stated that there were also organizational considerations which must be decided. “In many instances a Tourism Director works under the direction of a surrogate manager, usually the Chamber Director. In other, usually larger communities the Tourism Director works directly for the TDC Board, and in some rarer instances for the Board of Commissioners as a county employee. The planning committee recommends that in our instance the position be placed under the direction of the Chamber.”

The proposal also included provision for the TDC paying the Chamber $29,000 per year for rent of office space and use of the Russ House as a visitors welcoming center by the TDC. The chamber has historically charged a 4% of revenues fee to the TDC for administrative support. This normally amounts to around $12,000 per year.

During the presentation Kimbrough emphasized that the revenue figures used in the projections which were presented to the panel were conservative. “During the past year revenues have fallen approximately 20%, and uncertainties remain, so it is prudent to take a very conservative approach when making financial projections,” Kimbrough stated.

After Kimbrough completed his presentation each TDC board member was given the opportunity to state their feelings on these issues, and to ask additional questions. In general, the reaction appeared to be receptive to these proposed changes. These will now be presented to the Board of County Commissioners in a two hour joint workshop session beginning at 4:00 PM in the Commission Meeting Room on Tuesday, April 27. The Commission’s regular meeting will begin at 6:00 PM.

1 comment:

  1. Just another way to piss away money. $29 thousand dollars for office space!????? I think that someone who benefits from this spending should donate the office space or better yet, I think that the County could find space for them. Maybe the Danley bulding would donate some space to get some foot traffic in there.What about the empty MHS school building? Better yet, lets just take the million and put it on a new courthouse/ adm building. At least we would have something concrete to show for our money !