100% cut too severe for Visit Spearfish

2020 has been unlike any year we have experienced. Dealing with a global pandemic and its impact on our local community, have made for some difficult choices.

That’s the case for private businesses and public entities like the city of Spearfish. We have made our own here at the Pioneer, so we understand the need for making tough calls.

At the same time, this year will not last forever. It just seems like it.

So you need to train an eye on the future, and that means keeping operations intact as much as possible. Transparent, calm communication within our operations and within the public is essential. Better days are ahead.

That’s why we ask the Spearfish City Council to reconsider its plan to eliminate Community Grant funding for the Visit Spearfish marketing organization. While other organizations are slated to receive 10% reductions in funding from the city’s third-penny hospitality tax fund, Visit Spearfish is facing a 100% cut.

That’s too severe.

Visit Spearfish would be profoundly impacted by this cut. It would still receive monthly payments from the Hotel Business Improvement District board, which collects a $2-per-night fee from every hotel room in participating businesses, but those dollars are in way too much flux when we are seeing such a huge disruption in our tourism numbers.

HBID board president Bill Collins said Visit Spearfish has relied on both.

“Either (funding source) on its own was not enough to have an impactful outcome, but combined together they make up enough of a fund for the operation of Visit Spearfish to be effective,” Collins told us. “It was definitely a keen hit out of the blue. It was unexpected, and in a year where a community, which has long had jobs created by the visitor industry, is being choked. We’re struggling, to say the least — down in the neighborhood of 36% for the year.”

He compared Visit Spearfish’s efforts to planting a crop. While it’s tempting to invest in other areas, those humble seeds will bring forth a bountiful harvest.

Visit Spearfish plants those seeds. We don’t see the wisdom in reducing the number it spreads across the nation to help bring people here on their vacation.

We understand it’s been a difficult tourism season. Numbers are down and there is a natural tendency to pull back. In addition, the city is looking for revenue to cover the $10 million bond on the Sky Ridge housing development, which will include a new sports complex.

We are excited to see that built. It will be a great addition to the community — and something worth promoting. With Visit Spearfish adding an events coordinator at the direction of the city, it can play a significant role in ensuring the sports complex is a busy place.

Visit Spearfish Executive Director Mistie Caldwell knows that. If city officials have suggestions on how to better market Spearfish, we are certain she would listen.

We encourage dialogue on all issues, and this should be no exception. On Wednesday, six local residents who own businesses spoke up at the city’s Legal and Finance Committee meeting, saying they opposed such a drastic cut.

It’s noteworthy that no one stepped forward to support it.

“I’m really a little bit disappointed that this couldn’t be discussed far before we’re at this point,” she said. “I don’t understand what the rub is, because you have two members of the council and a mayor who sit on (the Visit Spearfish) board and come to our meetings every month.”

Councilman Darick Eisenbraun said there is nothing personal about this matter. He called it a “business decision,” and we understand those have to be made.

The city claims it doesn’t see enough return for its investment. The type of marketing Visit Spearfish is tasked with does not reap instant results. Destination focused marketing brings people here this winter and for the 2021 tourism season. It is poor timing to implement major funding cuts, as our local businesses are already struggling to make up for lost revenue.

We suggest weighing other options. Instead of 10% cuts for other organizations and a complete loss for Visit Spearfish, spread the sacrifice around more equitably. If it must absorb a larger cut, don’t make it 100%.

We have heard there has been discussion about restoring some funding for Visit Spearfish. That is an encouraging note.

The 2021 city budget will be addressed again at the council’s regular meeting at 5:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 8. While it’s late in the game, there is still time to alter this cut.

We hope citizens who support Visit Spearfish and appreciate its efforts are in attendance. There are ways to revise this and move forward in a positive manner. Visit Spearfish is an investment in the long-term financial health of our community.

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(1) comment

FanB

A new allocation was described in the council packet that was released last Friday ... it's strange that this editorial didn't provide the most updated information.

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