Time is right to try chamber of tourism partnership, says mayor – Jamestown Sun

JAMESTOWN – The time is right and it makes sense to try a shared resource model between the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce and Jamestown Tourism, according to Mayor Dwaine Heinrich.

Jamestown Tourism Executive Director Searle Swedlund’s last official day in Jamestown is Friday, September 9. With the experience of chamber executive director Emily Bivens working at the Jamestown tourism office, now is the time to test the partnership, Heinrich said.

The Jamestown Tourism Board of Directors unanimously approved on Monday, August 29, a partnership between Jamestown Tourism and the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.

Under the shared resource model, the cost and duties of the CEO and marketing positions will be shared between the chamber and Jamestown Tourism. Jamestown Tourism would reimburse the chamber for expenses associated with the two shared booths.

It’s hard for each entity to afford its own marketing person, but together they can also share that position, Heinrich said.

“It’s probably not a position (marketing position) that either agency can justify having a full-time person for,” he said.

He said that the model of shared resources between a chamber and a tourist office is a model used by other communities in the state.

Swedlund said the partnership is not a merger of the two entities. He said the chamber and Jamestown Tourism will maintain their own identities.

“We are being more efficient. We are saving money,” she said. “We are taking advantage of the nature of what our community has in terms of dollars and cents to do the work that they need.”

Swedlund said the common denominator in both agencies’ external messaging is the “game” piece. The chamber’s message is that Jamestown is a “great place to work and play.”

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“Our message (Jamestown Tourism) is a great place to visit and play,” he said.

Bivens will be the executive director managing the chamber and Jamestown Tourism.

Jamestown Tourism will still have two staff members, one for marketing, one position shared with the chamber, and the other for sites and working with all tourism sites.

The partnership also allows Jamestown Tourism to increase wages and offers benefits to its employees.

“Because we are two people, we (Jamestown Tourism) cannot make a profit,” Swedlund said. “We can’t get anything for the benefits, but they have their two employees plus their DMV (North Dakota Department of Motor Vehicles) employees. So that’s big enough where they have stuff that we don’t, so it makes sense to add something to that.”

Jamestown Tourism plans to apply for more funds from Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. to use for marketing funds, which, if approved, would increase JSDC’s revenue from $75,000 a year to $125,000 a year. The majority of the $75,000 each year went to event marketing in the form of grants.

Swedlund said no new money will come for the camera. The biggest changes are the shared resources of the CEO and marketing positions.

Swedlund said the additional funds from JSDC will be used for the marketing position and for marketing and advertising. He said the JSDC’s request for funding is all about time.

“If we’re going to really focus on this marketing and messaging, we can’t just have somebody in a corner with no resources to work with,” he said. “We have to give them tools to be effective in that role.”

Swedlund said that Jamestown Tourism has talked with its event partners about its grant structure and how different it could be.

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“It may not even exist,” he said. “We talked to a lot of our event partners in that context, not all of them but a lot of them, and offered to a lot of them that we’ll have better tools overall to support them because they volunteer.”

With the shared resource model, both entities will have separate directories. Jamestown Tourism will retain a board of five to nine members, while the chamber will retain a board of nine to 11 members. An executive committee will also be formed with two members from each group.

Swedlund said a business agreement with the city of Jamestown establishes that the Jamestown Tourism Board makes sure his agency is transparent with its finances and follows open records and open meetings laws.

“Nothing changes,” he said.

Bivens said that neither entity will abandon its 501(c)6 status and that both will continue to conduct business.

Jamestown Tourism is a publicly funded entity and receives funding from hospitality taxes and the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. In 2022, Jamestown Tourism received $336,000 in hospitality taxes and $75,000 from the JSDC.

Jamestown Tourism revenues in 2012 were more than $509,000, approximately $405,000 in 2019 and $455,340 in 2022. Expenses were approximately $449,000 in 2012, $398,000 in 2019 and approximately $433,000 in 2012. With a partnership with the chamber, revenue would increase from 0 to 000 with $526 to $495,000, Swedlund said.

The chamber receives its income from membership dues, North Dakota Department of Motor Vehicles dues, and committees and events. In 2022, the chamber received $135,000 from memberships, $225,500 from DMV fees, and $60,000 from committees and events.

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