The City of Brookings and the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce remain at an impasse over how to promote tourism in the area.
The city and chamber parted ways in early May after city officials extended a one-year contract instead of its usual five-year agreement. It ended a 20-plus year arrangement between the two entities.
City Manager Gary Milliman said in a work session Monday that he’d received a letter from the chamber again rejecting the one-year offer.
“We’re willing to continue to provide promotional services for the Brookings Harbor area, but we cannot do it for an abbreviated period,” said Les Cohen, chamber president and CEO. “If they’re fixed on that, we can’t participate.”
The chamber gets better deals with advertisers when it signs on for longer periods of time, said Ken Bryan, chairman of the chamber board.
The chamber spent almost $60,000 on tourism last year, of which about 54 percent came from the city.
Money went to promotions in trade shows, website and magazine advertising and vacation guides.
Target audiences include the Rogue Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles and Sacramento.
Of the $35,000 the city contributes to the budget – an amount that fluctuates slightly each year – the chamber is, by contract, permitted to spend 30 percent on administrative costs. But, Cohen said, it has instead rolled that money into the promotional budget.
The city’s contribution to the chamber represents 25 percent of the so-called “transient occupancy tax,” or bed taxes, collected from hotels, RV parks, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals.
The current contract with the chamber expires June 30.
The city will now have to find another avenue to spread the word about Brookings and its activities.
“I have been given no direction to do anything different with the chamber,” Milliman said. “This is a big change.”
The council has asked him to explore other options, some of which could include forming its own program or partnering with the Port of Brookings Harbor or the Tri-Agency Economic Development Commission. That organization promotes Crescent City and its port and Del Norte County.
Port of Brookings Harbor manager Ted Fitzgerald said he is willing to work with the city to fill the gap.
“That’s what I’m hoping we’re going to do,” he said. “We have some ideas about how we could work together with the city and make it work for everybody.”
Details have not yet been discussed.
The city could also request proposals from business or non-profit entities.
According to Milliman, Brookings works with traveloregon.com and the Southern Oregon Visitor’s Association. Additional promotion is supported by the America’s Wild Rivers Coast consortium and some with the Del Norte Chamber of Commerce.
Most of the discussion Monday centered around the possibility of collaborating with the port, which hosts numerous events.
“We have talked about matching advertising dollars, augmenting staff,” Milliman said. “It’s still very conceptual. But there is some potential there.”
The Port of Brookings Harbor extends from the California to just south of Pistol River, collects tax revenue from the area, moorage fees from boaters, and receives rental income from the land it owns.
“We have the same goals,” Fitzgerald said. “The area needs to be promoted. It’s a largely unknown jewel. People need to know how great it is.”
The chamber, Cohen said, will continue its work promoting the Brookings-Harbor area by supporting websites, funding the state-authorized visitor center and distributing visitor information that promotes business members.
“Tourism has been hit over the past several years, but in comparison to other parts of the state, we’re relatively steady,” Cohen said. “What’s good for Brookings-Harbor is good for the businesses of Brookings-Harbor,” Cohen said.
City officials in Gold Beach are experiencing a similar conundrum since the council there fired Gold Beach Promotions and visitor Center director Jeff Ferguson in March.
That timing alone could open the door to the county working as a whole.
However, Milliman said, “there is very little communication among the governmental entities in Curry County or their chambers of commerce.”
Gold Beach has already received seven proposals to take over the services previously provided by its center.
Fitzgerald agrees it could be beneficial to promote the county as a whole.
“It doesn’t seem smart to duplicate efforts,” he said. “One coalition working together can promote Brookings more efficiently than a bunch of separate entities.
“With our economy, our logging and fishing both diminished, the growth area that remains is tourism,” he added. “That’s a big thing.”