published: Wednesday, April 10, 2013
Keep wheels of progress moving forward
I believe the Tourist Development Council (TDC) is moving backwards with its proposal to lump spending categories into one pot. The public voted for an ordnance requiring TDC to reach out to the cultural tourist. It mandated 17 percent of tax dollars be used exclusively for this purpose. This never came to pass. For 10 years TDC put all funds in one pot and spent it on things other then Art & Culture (A&C).
Last year the state called our commissioners to task over TDC mismanagement of funds. TDC returned some $162,000 of the $344,000 missing from the A&C fund. TDC thinks this is reason to eliminate A&C as a future funding category.
Cultural tourism is the largest segment of the market. They have deep pockets, shop locally, diversify and grow rural economies. They are searching for surprising cultural oases like Highlands County.
The ordinance TDC is rushing through removes A&C as a percentage of tax revenue. It lumps 70 percent of revenues into one pot to spend without guidelines. This would put the future of A&C in the hands of those who raided its kitty.
TDC rationalizes that A&C has not asked for money so why allocate future funding to target the cultural tourist. Wouldn't it be more productive to ask why A&C organizations have not applied for TDC grants?
There is no representation of A&C on the TDC. The council has no experience promoting the cultural tourist. The needs of A&C were never incorporated in their sports-centric, event-oriented guidelines. TDC application forms and guidelines actually discourage A&C organizations from applying.
The counties tapping cultural tourism have a percentage of tourist tax dollars earmarked for this purpose and use an organization of local A&C professionals to council the use of this fund. They wisely promote places, not just events. This is called branding.
With the funds returned to A&C we have startup costs for a branding campaign. We need to keep a percentage of bed tax funds in place to insure its success. This is the time to give A&C a chance to attract the cultural tourist, not cut it off.
A new ordinance hindering our ability to attract cultural tourists is not progress. We need to work out an ordinance and guidelines with A&C at the table. There is precedent. We don't have to reinvent the wheel, just get it moving. Forward.
For information on the subject visit www.HeartlandCulturalAlliance.org
Heartland Cultural Alliance
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