CITY TOURISM OFFICE CLAIMS GREATER ACCOUNTABILITY; BUT SPENDS $30K WITHOUT PUBLIC BID PROCESS

Montrose Assistant City Manager and Office of Business and Tourism Director Rob Joseph spoke to the forum at Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli earlier this year. Image courtesy Cara Fandel for Howling Wolf Photography.

Montrose Assistant City Manager and Office of Business and Tourism Director Rob Joseph spoke to the forum at Heidi’s Brooklyn Deli earlier this year. Image courtesy Cara Fandel for Howling Wolf Photography.

By Caitlin Switzer

MONTROSE—(July 2, 2013)  Earlier this year, the City of Montrose chose not to renew its contract with the former Montrose Association of Commerce and Tourism (Montrose ACT), which was created in 2010 to merge the functions of the former Montrose Chamber of Commerce, Montrose Area Merchants’ Association and Montrose Visitor and Convention Bureau. City officials promised to bring greater transparency and accountability to use of the funds allocated for tourism promotion ($400,000) and retail enhancement ($230,000).

The Mirror spoke with Rob Joseph, Assistant City Manager and Director of the Montrose Office of Business and Tourism, last week to learn whether that promise is being kept.

“We’re going to put heads in beds, and make cash registers Ring,” Joseph said. “We want to make Montrose successful; we are very committed to the town and the community. Montrose can be a destination; this is a paradigm shift.”

Non-essential advertising has been halted as the MOBT re-establishes a foundation, Joseph said.

“We are creating a specific message, and getting our tools in place,” he said. “We need a cohesive message, which we will use to create targeted advertising. With a fine-tuned effort, we have a high statistical probability of converting readers to visitors.”

Hotels and restaurants need to feel supported, he said, noting that the MOBT operates with the dual philosophies of “Stay here, play everywhere,” and “Recreate and Relocate.”

Among the roles assigned to the former Montrose ACT was funding for small community events. In 2011, it provided $39,200 and in 2012 $32,620 in funding support for approximately 19 local events, as well as in-kind services in the form of news releases, event releases to a tourism database of 42,000, and Adventure Guide listings, Montrose Chamber of Commerce (formerly Montrose ACT) Director Jenni Sopsic said.

In 2013, the Montrose Office of Business & Tourism has funded 31 groups to date, with $32,000 in cash, $10,000 in in-kind donations, and $850 in Montrose Bucks, Joseph said. Awards ranged from $200 to $3,000 , and applicants were encouraged to apply collaboratively, he said.

Earlier this month, Montrose City Council members voted four to one in favor of spending another $30,000 for the City’s participation in the Data Analytics program, which would provide a statistical analysis of visitor demographics using information obtained from area retail and hospitality establishments.

The MOBT is presently advertising for a Coordinator for Retail Sales Enhancement and Tourism Promotion with a salary range of 38,724 to $47,626. Joseph said that he expects to have the position filled in July.

The City is also in the midst of its first Montrose Bucks special promotion, which is taking place at City Hall July 1-3. The promotion will run from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. all three days, and will be held on a first-come first served basis. Participants can exchange $100 in cash for $120 in Montrose Bucks checks, which expire July 31.

“We will be strategically launching these 20-percent promotions through the year,” Joseph said. “Our intent is to piggyback off the excitement, and support Four Days of the Fourth, which we hope will be a signature event.”

Joseph said he has targeted an expanded presence in the Colorado State Vacation Guide as key to appealing to visitors, and has implemented a cooperative advertising program that pays 50 percent of ad costs in some publications for some local businesses. To gain a better understanding of the community’s tourism needs, Joseph has been volunteering with the Black Canyon Visitor Center, and plans to partner with the Black Canyon team on winter activities.

“I am excited about our web site, about using social media, about our interactive adventure guide,” Joseph said. “But you have to do the basics before the fancy stuff.”

Partnering with other community organizations has been a key focus of the MBOT, which is the single largest funder of the Region 10 Small Business Resource Center.  “We feel that is essential,” Joseph said. “Consistent small business support is something we have needed. We are also working with CMU (Colorado Mesa University) to put together hospitality training. There needs to be a baseline, a consistent level of customer service throughout the community; we want to position ourselves as educators.”