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home : latest news : local May 1, 2016

3/25/2014 10:48:00 AM
Williams Chamber reps press city council for funding increase

Marissa Freireich
Williams-Grand Canyon News Reporter

WILLIAMS, Ariz. - After a funding cut by the city two years ago, representatives from the Williams-Grand Canyon Chamber of Commerce asked the Williams City Council to restore the money in this year's budget.

Chamber President Gioia Goodrum, Chamber Board President Doug Wells and Marketing Consultant Heather Hermen asked for the funding at the March 6 council meeting.

The city projects the chamber will have received $273,000 from Bed, Board and Booze (BBB) tax revenue by the end of fiscal year 2013/2014.

The chamber's budget proposal for the upcoming fiscal year includes an increase of $50,000.

Goodrum said two years ago the city cut funding to the chamber by $26,000 because of budget issues.

"That cut has had a detrimental impact on the chamber and our ability to do good work that we have done on behalf of the city," she said.

Goodrum added that for every $1 spent on tourism, the city receives $8 in sales tax.

"The investment you are making in tourism directly puts dollars back into our local economy, providing Williams a needed revenue for local projects such as roads, parks and rec and employee salaries," she said.

Cutting down on promotion and advertising would reduce the number of tourists who visit town, Goodrum said. She added that the chamber has used money from its reserves to continue promoting the town.

"If you are not advertising, you are forgotten," she said. "We do not want to be forgotten or overlooked."

In 2013-2014, Goodrum said the chamber met with more than 40 journalists and 40 tour operators, which she estimated came out to about $715,000 in advertising value from positive articles about Williams.

In 2012-2013 the chamber spent $50,000 in print advertising, which Goodrum said contributed to increased sales tax and BBB tax revenue.

"Most of our residents are employed in tourism jobs," Goodrum said. "Until Williams has other non-tourism employment, we must ensure that our residents can stay employed by encouraging more tourists to visit our community."

Hermen said working with the Arizona Office of Tourism allows Williams to get dollar-for-dollar matching funds for advertising. She added that the chamber is looking ahead to the Superbowl in 2015.

"Right now by the University of Phoenix stadium we have billboard advertising up right now," she said. "So you'll see a beautiful golf course, flowers and mountain views on those billboards."

The chamber is also promoting Williams through social media and trade shows to attract international tourists.

Goodrum said the chamber is asking for the restoration and increase in funding because the city projects to bring in increased BBB tax revenue this year.

"The simple point is, BBB has increased, funding has decreased, and this situation is not sustainable if we are to continue to effectively promote Williams," she said.

Goodrum said the chamber's partnership with the city has been beneficial to both local businesses and residents.

"We understand the budget difficulties you are facing-let us help you. Restore our funding so we can attract more visitors and tax dollars to Williams," she said.

Wells said bringing travel writers to town, buying advertising, and putting on Mountain Village Holiday to attract visitors are all successful, but they require money.

"I think we're going to have a good year this year with tourism. But we've got to keep the message out," he said. "I think we've been good stewards of the dollars we do receive from the city, and we're just asking to continue that partnership."

After the meeting, City Manager Brandon Buchanan said BBB revenues are split about 70/30 with 70 percent for running and staffing the visitor center and marketing and tourism promotion through the chamber, and 30 percent for recreation facilities and road improvements.

"By the time we factored everything that comes out of BBB, that's the amount that was available for that transfer to the Chamber for marketing," Buchanan said of the funding cut.

He added that although BBB revenues are up about 10 percent year to date, staffing, maintenance and utilities costs have also risen.

"And so just because we're up 10 percent year to date doesn't mean there's another 10 percent available to give to the chamber to promote Williams," he said.

The city is still working on its budget, which staff plans to present to the council some time in April.

As of now, Buchanan said the city is budgeting to give the chamber about the same amount as it did last year, in the $270,000-$275,000 range. However, Buchanan said he is trying to work in a contingency fund of about $25,000 that could possibly go to the chamber next spring if BBB revenue continues to increase at the rate it has been climbing.

"But I'm proposing to list it as a contingency only so if the money doesn't materialize it hasn't already been committed," he said.

Buchanan added that giving the chamber the full amount it asked for would require significant cuts to the other BBB fund uses.

"I'd love, just like all the other departments that are in need of more funding, to be able to give them another $50,000 in the budget," he said. "It's just the math doesn't work."

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