Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Tourism director wants $64K for marketing, trade shows

 


Tourism director Leslie Ross is proposing that $64,000 from the Haines Borough’s community and economic development director position be re-appropriated to the tourism department for online marketing, travel to trade shows and a website update.

Ross said the transfer of about $31,400 of the funds “is not a new ask,” but would restore the department’s advertising, travel and training funding to near last fiscal year’s budget amount. Ross is also asking for $32,500 to hire consulting firms to improve the department’s online marketing ads and campaigns.

The community and economic development director position was created last year, but has been empty since June.

A budget amendment ordinance that would transfer the funds was introduced at last week’s assembly meeting.

Assembly members Ron Jackson and George Campbell questioned why the money should revert to the tourism department when it could potentially be put to more pressing economic development matters, or distributed among smaller economic development projects.

“In the bigger picture of the borough, I think economic development crosses all departments,” Jackson said. “It seems like there ought to be some list of things that we want to do besides tourism so that we can kind of look at the various pros and cons of where we spend that money.”

Assembly member Diana Lapham pointed out that money for the community and economic development director position came from the borough’s Economic Development and Tourism Fund, and that the money therefore needs to return there. But Jackson countered that the fund includes economic development.

“Economic development is not just the tourism department,” Jackson said. “It is broadly spread over the entire borough.”

Campbell agreed, saying he thought he could make a strong case for using the money for projects that promote economic development like the Small Boat Harbor and Lutak Dock. “We need money for that. Maybe this is a good place to start.”

Though Ross is seeking $64,000, there is actually $99,100 available because the community and economic development director position is vacant, said chief fiscal officer Jila Stuart. If the $64,000 transfer is approved, that still leaves $35,000, which if it is not redistributed, will just roll over into the fund balance, Stuart said.

The proposed consulting work would include an audit of the tourism department’s present marketing work, recommendations for improvement and a timeline. It also would include creation of a “robust” and “aggressive” campaign to span social media websites, mobile sites, search engines, travel pages, blogs and online ads.

Interim manager Brad Ryan said he supports use of the consulting service. “This really is a specialty. There are people who know how to link ads, work with Google, how to track all of that so your ads are effective and being seen.”

“I don’t know that many people who are running websites that don’t use outside consultants to make them more effective. It’s not something we necessarily have a lot of resources for in Haines,” he said.

According to meeting minutes, the Finance Committee recently voted 4-0 to recommend the assembly authorize Ross to pursue the consulting work, and voted 3-1 to restore the advertising budget. Assembly member Jackson was opposed to the second vote.

Ryan said former manager David Sosa had been moving toward eliminating the community and economic development position and restoring the executive assistant to the manager job.

“I think it makes sense,” Ryan said. “I would really rather see us have an assistant to the borough manager that can work on economic development issues on a limited basis, but would be more directed by the manager to make things happen for the borough.”

The budget amendment ordinance will have its first public hearing at Tuesday’s assembly meeting. 

 
 

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