CAPC agrees to spend $25,000 on branding research

Thursday, December 19, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission is working with Paradise advertising agency to come up with a new branding campaign for the city.

On Wednesday, Dec. 11, tourism director Lacey Ekberg said she's been talking to representatives from the advertising agency to determine how Eureka Springs should be branded. Finance director Rick Bright said the agency needs $25,000 to do some market research as part of the branding project.

Commissioner Terry McClung asked if the agency needs the money now and Bright said sooner is better than later.

"It's so that they can get a better grasp on what our brand needs to be," Bright said.

Commissioner Susan Harman supported the idea.

"We've not had an ad agency in forever and I think it's something the town desperately, desperately needs," Harman said. "They're asking just for $25,000? That'll get them started in 2019?"

"Absolutely," Bright said.

Harman moved to adjust the budget to add Paradise's request for $25,000 to get started on the branding project and the commission unanimously agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, Bright presented the financial report, saying the cash balance as of Nov. 30 was $700,871.43. He listed tax collections remitted in November, from October collections. He said restaurants brought in $83,149, down $2,568 (3 percent). Total lodging collections were $98,806, up $5,599 (6 percent). These lodging collections include: $21,301 for hotels, up $2,281 (12 percent); $49,975 for motels, up $1,939 (4 percent); $49,975 for B&Bs, down $287 (3.2 percent); and $18,881 for cabins and cottages, up $1,667 (9.7 percent). Bright said the year-to-date lodging collections compared with 2018 are up $5,599 (6 percent) and the year-to-date restaurant collections compared with 2018 are up $25,518 (3.7 percent). The year-to-date total collections, he said, are up $28,555 (2.1 percent).

In other business, the commission addressed Mayor Butch Berry's request for more financial support on The Auditorium renovation project. Harman recalled the Eureka Springs City Council's Dec. 9 meeting, saying the project should come in around $145,000.

"It's still an unknown because we don't have bids out," Harman said. "Bids aren't going to come until maybe the first two weeks of January."

McClung said the CAPC already does quite a bit to support The Auditorium.

"However, this project is a benefit to the city and we do have some [money] in reserves," McClung said. "We can … participate in this. I can't say how much, but I think we ought to consider participating once they get the final costs."

"So you're saying let's wait," said chairwoman Carol Wright.

Harman said there's not much to be done until bids come in and McClung agreed.

"We should wait and see how it comes in," McClung said. "We need to participate in some fashion. It's going to be up to this body to determine that."

Ekberg said she spoke with Berry about the renovation, saying Berry is concerned the council won't be willing to pay the entire cost of the project.

"I think he was kind of looking for a good-will commitment," Ekberg said.

Harman said she's worried about taking money from reserves.

"We have $180,000 in reserves, which isn't a lot of money," Harman said. "If we take another $50,000 … that doesn't even leave us a month of operating [costs] if something happens."

McClung pointed out that the commission just voted to move $25,000 from reserves to pay for market research and Harman said she understood that.

"The other thing I know that's still outstanding is the equipment upgrade we've been asked to do by some of the shows that are coming in," Harman said.

Harman asked how much that equipment would cost and Bright said it should be between $25,000 and $40,000. Wright said the concerts at The Auditorium have been performing well. Bright agreed, saying the commission has brought in more than $50,000 more than anticipated on shows at The Auditorium this year.

"I think the more comfortable we can make it for our patrons –– the more services we can offer them –– the more likely they are to come again," Wright said.

Bright said it's possible the commission could move $150,000 to reserves at the end of the year, totaling around $280,000.

"Right now, we're not cash-poor at all," Bright said. "We can easily put money in reserves that can fund these projects."

"I hate to be a Debbie Downer," Ekberg said, "but I also know that tourism is a roller coaster. It would take one natural catastrophe to completely shut us down tourism-wise, but we still have bills. That's something to keep in mind."

The commission's next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 8, at The Auditorium.

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  • I’d certainly recommend caution to the CAPC when considering funding requests from the City. Just remember, you’re not the only commission that’s had to slap the city’s nose for sniffing around your reserves. The hospital commission and parks have some experience there as well. It’s much better to make the city work responsibly within their own budget than to give them another funding source for more spending. So far, it seems like our two city council representatives on the CAPC understand this and are providing some necessary financial gatekeeping on both sides of the fence. However, since they are also the only aldermen with marketing and advertising experience, we can assume that an attempt to change this representation could be an attempt to more easily access these reserves, leading to any number of serious problems involving the CAPC’s tax collections, funding directions, oversight issues, penalties, etc. Something to watch.

    As for “does the CAPC need an ad agency”? Well, since you're the city’s newspaper, I’ll let you in on a scoop. YES!!! The past decade should provide sufficient evidence of that. We have precious little marketing experience and a director that’s still new and learning the politics. We’ve desperately needed this outside experience for both growing our tourism and maintaining consistency during unanticipated changes. It’s about time.

    -- Posted by outofthebox on Fri, Dec 20, 2019, at 11:46 AM
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