The Brookings Tourism and Marketing Advisory Committee is now a permanent group with a more focused goal to help others create new events, increase visitor numbers and decrease the “blood, sweat and tears” that committee member Candace Michael said went into their work this past year.
The need to codify the eight-member board came about because many on the board believe they have a better idea of what kinds of promotions, advertising and marketing works — and because the demands it places on city staff time have become onerous.
The city staff, City Manager Gary Milliman said, has helped put together contracts, coordinate photo shoots and research topics the committee wished to pursue.
“This group needs to focus, rather than use a shotgun approach,” Mayor Ron Hedenskog said in a work session last week. “It’s more effective to have a narrow focus — have a few targets and hit them hard.”
Since the group was formed a year ago, it has spent the town’s lodging tax revenue — totalling about $30,000 a year — on television advertising in the Rogue Valley, helped a few startup events get going and delved into the Internet world with marketing.
The decisions weren’t always easily come by, either, with personality issues and arguments that had to be overcome.
The city council and committee members all feel their duties need to be narrowed down.
“The last time we thought of a tourism advisory committee, we had five councilors come up with 50,000 ideas that were way beyond the scope (of time and energy to develop them),” Hedenskog told three of the tourism committee members in attendance. “You should take those 50,000 ideas, put them in a screen, shake it and see what falls out. Then you tell us what you think is going to work.”
The committee was formed after the city of Brookings parted ways with the Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce in 2012 over an advertising contract dispute. The two groups are gradually mending their bridges through work enacted by the committee.
“It’s been a real learning experience for all of us,” Michael said. “We had no clue — nothing; no template, nothing, going into this.”
“We let the horses out of the barn to see what would happen,” Hedenskog said.
“The best thing we did was spend $5,000 on the crab event,” said Councilor Kelly McClain of the inaugural Southwestern Oregon Crab Festival. “It was a brand-new event, it was successful and they did it all.”
He agreed that details involved with advertising, particularly television promos and advertisements, took up too much of the staff’s time.
“Maybe it should concentrate on how much (staff) management it’ll take — are we going to need design, do we need to do campaign art?” McClain said. “Think of things with ‘we’ and eliminate those.”
City Manager Gary Milliman warned the group about the broad extent of involvement such work can entail. For example, the tourism committee has long been debating whether to purchase — or more likely, share the cost of — a tent that could be used for larger events. Current discussion has the city, Port of Brookings Harbor and Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce splitting the $30,000 cost. But issues of storage and insurance also come into play, Milliman said.
“ We have to remember where the money comes from,” McClain said, noting that a tent, while often critical to an event’s success, does not by itself bring people to town.
Additionally, there is still the issue that, even though the port is the only venue large enough to hold most events, tourism dollars spent on those fairs, car shows and festivals eventually end up benefiting hotels in Harbor, which do not pay transient lodging taxes to the city of Brookings.
“These monies are coming from Brookings tourist taxes and the events are geared toward the port,” said Councilor Brent Hodges. “I’d be upset if I were a hotel owner; it would rub me the wrong way. The tone should not be to push everything to the port.”
Tim Patterson, who sits on both the port and tourism boards, disagreed.
“A visit to the port is a visit to Brookings,” he said. “The port is the one place to hold large events.”