BTAC grants help enhance tourism

Published on Thu, Jun 23, 2011 by Tara Nelson

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More than $100,000 in grant money is available for Blaine organizations or individuals to help fund events or projects that could enhance tourism in 2012.

The city of Blaine is now accepting applications for its Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee (BTAC) grant fund. The projects must relate to and support tourism-related goals in the city’s tourism, marketing and development plan and meet other requirements.

Blaine community and tourism coordinator Debbie Harger said the city has allocated approximately $100,000 for BTAC’s tourism grant fund program for 2012. The program is funded by a portion of the city’s hotel and motel tax, which is paid by anyone staying in a hotel, motel or place of lodging in the city of Blaine.

Harger said grants range from as little as $200 to as much as $20,000, depending on the size and scope of the project.
BTAC committee officials would like to see more off-season events, rather than just those during summer months.  “We’d especially like to see new organizations or events apply,” Harger said.

Past recipients include Pacific Arts Association (PAA) for the Blaine Jazz Festival, Drayton Harbor Maritime, the group that operates the Plover ferry, and the Sweet Road Artisans Alliance, a nonprofit group that hosts the semi-annual art studio tours throughout Blaine and Birch Bay.

Suzanne Conrad, who helps organize the annual Blaine Jazz Festival with her husband, Larry, through the Pacific Arts Association nonprofit organization, said without BTAC funding, the event wouldn’t happen.

While funding for most groups has decreased over the past few years, Conrad said they are appreciative of the amount they received, about $20,000 in 2010 for their 2011 program.

The event pairs high school music students with professional musicians and organizes free, daily noon concerts at the H and F street plazas.

“The grant goes toward paying 18 or 19 professional musicians from across the country and getting them to work with the students all week long,” she said. “It doesn’t pay for all of it, but without BTAC, we wouldn’t have the jazz festival at all.”
Diane Major, an organizer for the semi-annual Sweet Road artisan’s tour, agreed.

Major said the group started out with only $200 in BTAC funding their first year. Since then the event has grown, and increased funding purchases advertising in Vancouver weekly newspapers and distributes full-color maps to the north and south.

“We benefited greatly from the grant,” she said. “It’s allowed us to advertise out of the general area that we would be normally confined to and enabled us to invite our Canadian neighbors, our Mount Vernon neighbors, and people from Seattle.”

Major was still crunching the numbers from last month’s Blaine Artist Studio Tour, and hopes to analyze the data later to determine how effective the advertising in Canada had been.

“With the money from BTAC, we’re able to brand the tour, and we cherish every penny we get and make it stretch,” she said. “Each studio had about 300 or more guests, and that’s a huge increase from two years ago. A lot of those people spent the night here – they made Blaine a destination.”

Applications are available online at www.cityofblaine.com or by visiting Blaine city hall at 344 H Street.

Applications are due by 5 p.m. August 1. Applicants will also be required to make a short presentation on their project. For more information, call 360/332-8311.