Chamber to BTAC: Please fund Skywater, July fourth

Published on Thu, Feb 8, 2001 by Soren Velice

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Chamber to BTAC: Please fund Skywater, July fourth

By Soren Velice

Although they agree with much of the Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee’s (BTAC) new marketing plan, Blaine Chamber of Commerce board members have two major problems with the way BTAC wants to spend the hotel/motel tax. The committee is in the midst of preparing its recommendations for city council.

“The only thing we disagree with is festival and event funding,” chamber president Ed Magner said. “We don’t think that should be cut, especially this year.” The plan was developed by the consulting firm of Chandler, Brooks and Donahoe as part of a $25,000 contract to help the city tap into its tourism potential. The report was funded by hotel/motel tax revenues. Among other things, the report recommended an arts commission that would spend $15,000 a year to develop multi-day events to draw overnight visitors; the report says single-day events should not be funded, especially those geared toward residents. According to the consultants, events should become self-sufficient within two to three years

.Magner agreed that chamber events, particularly the Skywater Festival, should become self-sufficient. Still, he said, the newly revitalized events are at a stage where they require city funding to gain popularity. “We design the events we do around the community to show who we are,” he said, “and I think that’s what brings tourists here – to see something different.”

In a letter to BTAC, the chamber stated its support of the report’s major recommendations, such as an architecture and sculpture theme for the town, improved signage on the freeway and in town, a proposed purchase of the Subway building to house the visitor information center, public restrooms and adding a boardwalk. “However, we strongly disagree with the recommendation that festival and event funding be cut 100 percent by BTAC.” The chamber also opposed spending money to recruit a hotel in Blaine. “We feel that looking for another hotel at this time is putting the cart before the horse,” the letter states. The consultants had recommended spending as much as $45,000 on economic development

Community and economic development director Terry Galvin, however, supported spending $10,000 to recruit businesses including retail shopping and a hotel.“It gets us working, and Roger (Brooks, of CB&D) agreed a consultant could get many things started for $10,000.”
City manager Gary Tomsic agreed.

In addition to the Skywater Festival, Magner said the chamber wants support of the Blaine/Semiahmoo July 4th festival for one more year. “This event does directly yield overnight revenue, while at the same time creating interest and visits to Blaine from Whatcom County residents.” In 2000, the city allotted $16,000 in hotel/motel tax revenues to the 4th of July festival and $40,000 to Skywater.

At Tuesday’s BTAC meeting, committee member Lin Hertel suggested reviewing the plan’s proposed budget to find money for the chamber, while Robert Fix said he thought BTAC should use itemized requests from the chamber to determine how much money to give and for what aspects of the events. “The main issue for us was getting softer ground for one more year,” Magner said at the meeting. “At least now we we’ve got something to at least keep us planning.”

Magner said he understands BTAC’s position, but wants a compromise. “Obviously, they want to spend that money in other ways,” he said, “but I think we can find some middle ground.”

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