Prowers County Lodging Panel Starts 2020 with New Funding Guidelines



The Prowers County Lodging Tax Panel allocated the majority of their funding for events for 2020 this past Tuesday, January 21st. The budgeted contingency line item has about $9,000 left to cover any requests for the balance of the year, reduced from the usual $17,000 kept in reserves. This action comes from a needed re-adjustment of the line items of the 2020 budget which, when approved, cannot have that amount increased or decreased. Historically, the Panel operates with from $95K to $98K a year to help market events in Prowers County in an effort to draw tourists who would remain overnight to attend an event. That money is generated by a 2% lodging tax placed on rented motel rooms.

The change in funding policy has been slowly moving to this new way to conduct business for the past year. It’s not completely set in stone as the Panel allowed for some limited leeway in funding and transference of line item funds, but it won’t be as much in comparison to past years.

Panel funding policies have also been altered as event organizers must present their requests at a minimum of 120 days prior to the event and a new application form is being devised which asks for ‘consideration’ to be provided for the Panel, through either past monies generated or for an estimate for a new or first-time request.

The bulk of the funding and the means by which events are being marketed is going through Vista Works, a Colorado firm hired several months ago by the Panel under the authority of the Prowers County Commissioners. Past requests for contract fees, sometimes as high as $12,000 or $16,000 to stage an event, are no longer being funded. The majority of the advertising will be through Google or various forms of social media which is intended to connect a web user directly to an event of their interest in Prowers County.

For one event, at first glance, it seems to be working. Chad Hart, a Panel member and a member of the annual Snow Goose Festival set for February 6th this year, remarked that attendee’s numbers may show an increase. “Last month, we had 1,000 hits on the website advertising the event, but with the added social media marketing we’re now doing, we’re at 15,000 visits,” he said. Vista Works also secured a $1,000 grant to help defray some marketing expenses for the Festival. The Panel also paid $250 to cover the expenses for a reporter to produce an article on the Snow Goose Festival which will appear this Sunday in the Denver Post.

Bryan Jordan of Vista Works, the marketing firm hired by the Panel, explained that now, a $25,000 large market grant secured by his company, can be used for digital advertising of Prowers County attractions as well as the $9,000 remaining in the contingency fund. A $15,000 development grant was also approved for the Panel. Jordan said the Panel does have the option of using some of the $25,000 for more traditional forms of advertising as in the past, so long as his company is aware of the usage and can report to the state how those funds were used. Chairperson, Jane Felter, stated the Panel won’t know until next year if the contingency fund will be continued.

Jordan said grant applications can be made for funding again next year. “I can make changes to them as they are now for this year within the guide lines the tourism office and for next year, we can decide to apply by July. There’s no reason not to apply for them again.” As to the guarantee for passage, he noted, “I’ve written 20 of them and I’ve gotten all 20. There are no guarantees, but if we’re smart about what we ask for, I think they’ll want to give them to Prowers County. They don’t want to see this fail.”

Jordan added there will be some savings as now that the website has been built for 2020, there will be no future costs on that score. “Next year’s grant can be used for a lot more advertising and that might include some more traditional avenues.” He said these grant funds have to be allocated by August 31st of this year and there must be a grant match for the funds received by the Panel. Historically, most of the larger requests have been for events which are over by October.

Danielle Wollert, who organizes two student-attended rodeos each year, made her presentation for the Southeast All-Stars Junior High at $6,000 and $3,500 for the Colorado Junior Rodeo Association Lamar Rodeo. Both events are in April. Her requests were for contract fees rather than marketing to bring people to attend either event. The Panel voted for $500 for the Southeast All-Stars event only.

In light of discontinuing funding for contract fees, the Panel briefly discussed the possibility that some events, if not funded to the degree they have requested in the past, may not hold them in the future. The requests for contract fees began about ten years ago, even though some of these events had been conducted earlier without being funding in that manner. At the same time, the Panel remained mindful that some events, although heavily funded in the past, have had an extremely low audience for overnight visits regardless of the funding they have been given.

Norma Dorenkamp and Douglass Thrall have been replaced on the Panel by two new members, Beverly Haggard, a former Lamar City Councilperson who has been the city’s liaison with the Ports to Plains organization which works to improve highway conditions in the southwest including Prowers County. The other new member is Richard Taylor, co-owner of the Sun Dance High Plains RV Park/Cabins just south of Lamar on Highway 287. The Panel’s by-laws stipulate that members must have some connection to the tourism industry in Prowers County. Applicants submit their letters of interest to the Prowers County Commissioners for review.

Elections were held for officers for 2020 with Jane Felter remaining as Chairperson, Craig Brooks as Vice-Chair, Valerie Baldwin as Secretary and Kaye Hainer as Treasurer. The Prowers County Lodging Panel meets the third Tuesday of each month at 4pm at the Lamar Chamber of Commerce offices.

By Russ Baldwin


Filed Under: City of GranadaCity of HollyCity of LamarCity of WileyConsumer IssuesCountyEconomyEntertainmentFeaturedThe ArtsTourism


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