A&P holds ini­tial meet­ing

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - KEITH BRYANT kbryant@nwadg.com

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.

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