A&P holds initial meeting
Bella Vista’s freshly-established Advertising and Promotion Commission met for the first time Monday.
Commissioners discussed how the commission will function and elected officers.
A tax of 1 percent on prepared food and 2 percent on lodging stays of less than 30 days supports the commission. The tax will go into effect in September, according to economic development manager Travis Stephens.
The commission will be in charge of collecting the tax, he said. The funds are strictly for the commission to use in promotion of the city and its businesses.
Kalene Griffith, CEO of Bentonville’s A&P Commission, doing business as Visit Bentonville, showed up as a guest to discuss how these commissions operate.
Even if there is a degree of competition, she said, tourism isn’t usually for an isolated town in Northwest Arkansas. People typically spend time enjoying the entire region, meaning the area’s different A&P commissions benefit from working together.
Drawing tourism, she said, is very important for the cities and the businesses operating in them, and Visit Bentonville, much like Bella Vista’s commission, has to be careful about ensuring it spends its money to that end — which can be tricky with different entities eager to secure funding for events.
Aside from private entities, the commission needs to be somewhat cautious about where it helps with the city. The commission can’t pay for staff or normal city operations, she said, but it can partner with the city to put on an event.
“We’re part of the city,” she said. “We’re autonomous of the city but we want to see what their goals are and partner with them.”
An important thing for the
commission to examine, she said, is what specific draws the community has. With that in mind, she said, it’s easier to know whom to market to and how to reach them.
One difficulty, she said, is collecting the sales tax to support the commission. Visit Bentonville, she said, files a lien against businesses who do not pay after 120 days. This helps keep their collection rate at 99 percent, she said. Another incentive to pay, she said, is putting the names of those who do not pay in the newspaper.
Beyond that, Griffith said, communication and clarity are extremely important. Once the commission has voted for something, she said, everyone needs to be on board. This, she said, is a major factor in Visit Bentonville’s success over the past several years.
“We are one voice … even if we disagree on something,” she said. “When we vote for it, they walk out and we are one voice.”
Stephens explained that
terms start Jan. 1, 2018, and need to be staggered. He put term lengths into a bowl for commissioners to select.
Ben Biesenthal with Gusano’s Pizza drew a three-year term.
Tom Judson of the POA drew a one-year term.
Richard Siker of Rhythm and Q drew a four-year term.
Dan Lombard of Vacation Rentals drew a two-year term.
Once the initial terms end, future terms will be four years.
Also on the commission is Paula Sanders, director of marketing with Concordia, who is serving as the at-large member. She holds a fouryear term.
City council members Brian Bahr and Doug Fowler also serve on the commission. The council members
are appointed by the mayor, who also has the option of appointing himself, and may make changes to these appointments at any time, Stephens said.
Commissioners can be reappointed at the end of a term.
Next up, the commission discussed election of officers who, among other things, can be responsible
for signing checks for the commission.
Sanders agreed to chair the commission with City Council member Doug Fowler as vice chairman and Dan Lombard as treasurer.
Stephens said that these are very important first steps, but there is still a lot to figure out with exactly how this commission is going to function.