A recent newspaper article about the Warrensburg Chamber of Commerce & the proposed tourism room tax contained statement that the Chamber had obtained a $22,000 grant for tourism promotion this year. The item piqued my interest - so I went to Jefferson City to review all the files relating to cooperative marketing funds awarded to Warrensburg's Chamber by the Division of Tourism.
The Division of Tourism Cooperative Marketing Program provides a 50% match for funds spent on specifically approved tourism marketing programs. There are strict rules on the types of expenses that can be matched, the program is competitive in that Warrensburg's Chamber is competing with all other requests for the finite amount of money available in our Osage Lakes tourism region, and the money must be spent before reimbursement is received.
For FY 98 (Jul 97-Jun98), the Chamber was approved for a $21,200 project, of which half, or $10,600 could be reimbursed by the state. The FY98 project included $12,500 for 15,000 full color brochures, $2500 for 8000 parchment copies of Senator Vest's "Old Drum" speech, $4,000 for a direct mail campaign to Omaha, Springfield, St. Louis & Kansas City, $2,000 for newspaper ads in unnamed newspapers and $200 for train fare to tell school children about Old Drum. The program is to feature Whiteman's B-2 bomber and air show, CMSU sports and cultural activities, and local festivals including the Fall Festival, KOKO Expo, the Main Street Art Festival, the courthouse centennial, the now-defunct Old Drum Days festival and Midwest Goat Producers' convention. No events at the County Fairgrounds are included.
For FY 97 (Jul 96-Jun 97), the Chamber was approved for a $16,200 program, which included the same two brochures proposed in FY98, postage and Amtrak. They actually produced only the 4-color brochure (30,000) at a cost of $9755, of which $4877.50 was reimbursed by the state. The low bidder ($4511) was rejected because setup was extra at $40/hour. While this brochure was proposed to include substantially the same items proposed for FY98, in fact it provides more general community information than specifics for the tourist. It should be available at the Chamber office.
In FY96, the initial proposal was prepared by Warrensburg Main Street, but was turned over to the Chamber late in the fiscal year. 15,000 copies of a 4-color tri-fold brochure were printed at a cost $4300. This brochure was developed (reportedly by CMSU students) without input from any local entity involved in the tourism industry; these brochures may still be available.
The FY99 request will not be available for review at the Division of Tourism for a few weeks; however, Warrensburg's proposals in past years have barely met the minimum score for consideration. I understand that the FY99 program is oversubscribed by about $300,000 statewide, which means that even some applications that meet the minimum standards will not be funded. This should be a matter of particular concern since the Chamber's marketing plan included in past requests is simply a statement of objectives; the Division of Tourism guidelines say that they want the type of detail and analysis that a lender would demand from a small business borrower. The type of brochure produced in previous years has been essentially a "quality of life" piece rather than a listing of various facilities used by tourists, as contemplated by the Division of Tourism's Cooperative Marketing Program instructions for FY98 & FY99. Other interesting aspects of the recent programs are that the Kansas City, KS printer awarded the FY96 & FY97 contracts was not solicited for a bid for FY98, and that the only local firm to bid the FY97 brochure and quote the FY98 is Pack N Mail.
Should the Tourism Tax pass in April, it is to be hoped that Chamber and City leadership will become familiar with the Division of Tourism program and will exercise detailed oversight of both the application and execution of local tourism projects. For more information about tourism-related issues, you are welcome to visit my website at http://www.cedarcroft.com/tourtax.