The Gulf County Tourist Development Council is overseeing an upswing in visitors and bed taxes.
But with the Board of County Commissioners wishing to tap into the expertise of the agency administration, TDC advisory board members expressed concern about maintaining full focus.
TDC executive director Jennifer Jenkins presented to her board a plan for the agency’s staff to assist interim Economic Development Council director Towan Kopinsky in formulating a marketing plan for the EDC.
Under the plan, which was urged by the BOCC, Jenkins and staff members Kelli Jackson, the financial officer at the agency, and Michelle Perrin, who spearheads TDC marketing, would divide their time between TDC and EDC duties.
In short, they would help Kopinsky develop and implement a marketing plan and program for the EDC.
Jackson and Perrin would each expand their marketing work as the BOCC looks to establish an EDC using similar guidelines – an executive director, any staff and an advisory council – to that under which the TDC operates.
“We are learning a lot, but we need to figure out how to market things for economic development,” Jenkins said.
However, members of her board expressed reservations with the entire concept.
“I don’t like the idea of the TDC splitting its focus,” said board member Tony Whitfield, who added that he sure the BOCC saw an effective agency with operations worth duplicating. “I’m on the TDC, not the EDC. I’m concerned about the impacts to the TDC.”
The primary concern of board chair David Warriner was the physical “cohabitation” of the two agencies as Kopinsky moves into the TDC Welcome Center at least for the summer.
Warriner said the Welcome Center as already a beehive of activity with tourists and wondered how effective the physical arrangement could be, if, for example, some businessmen looking to locate arrive at Welcome Center in business attire at the same time a tourist enters in sandals and shorts to find out where to clean fish.,
“This building is stressed to the max,” Warriner said. “I’m afraid we are going to take our eye off the ball a bit. We need full focus on what we are doing.”
County attorney Jeremy Novak said the marketing of Gulf County, whether tourism- or business-related, were part of the same pie.
“As they get the EDC up and running you (the TDC) want to be a part of that,” Novak said.
Warriner, who has served in the past with the Chamber of Commerce, an EDC advisory council and the TDC, said the duties of the EDC are “voluminous” and “distracting” and added, “There is a difference between collaboration and cohabitation.”
Warriner said Novak should pass along concerns expressed by the TDC board about the EDC proposal and its impacts on the tourism agency and said board members would be vigilant of those impacts.
“We are concerned,” Warriner said. “This is a crucial time for us.”
Bed taxes up
Bed taxes in April spiked 11.03 percent compared to the same month last year, during which an increase of 11.79 was on the books.
Jenkins said the growth in April year-to-year indicated there was still room to grow the month.
“We have room to stay strong and steady in April,” Jenkins said. “We can do more to fill capacity.”
All indications are that May was a banner month, with the Memorial Day holiday weekend resembling a Fourth of July, Warriner and Whitfield each said.
Jenkins said she remains committed to her goal of 20 percent growth for the year and said her projections for revenue next year call for continued growth in the double digits.