In good times, city might look at alternate funding mechanism

Last week’s announcement that Visit Minot is having to make considerable adjustments to its budget because of continued fall-off in lodging and car rental taxes is disconcerting and accentuates the cycle that dictates the organization’s resources.

In financially challenging times, attracting events and visitors to Minot are good tools to assist the local economy. Yet it is in these same challenging times during which Visit Minot is limited because of less revenue.

There is no single solution. Obviously, long-term planning is important, but Visit Minot has been working against a deficit in that area because of the 2011 flood and the potential events chased away in its aftermath. With hotels booked with dislocated people and out-of-town workers in addition to the damage to town, event planners opted for other locations even as the actual bed tax was peaking in 2013. With less visiting labor now, the town might be more attractive as a destination but there is makeup work to be done and Visit Minot is on it.

Catching up will not be easy with reductions in travel and advertising spending as Visit Minot is planning because of shortfalls.

It’s certainly within the realm of possibilities that the City of Minot could assist, and could do so without new expenditure. Should the city combine its Parks and its Recreation departments, as other cities did last century, merging staff could easily free up budget space for a professional event planner- type position to assist Visit Minot and others who attract or host events.

Still another idea is for Visit Minot to address in long-term planning the identifying of a secondary or emergency funding source perhaps a “rainy day” fund to be initiated when next the economy cycles up. Visit Minot has plenty of friends in the community who might have suggestions about how this could be explored.

Attracting regional visitors is important economically, and creating distinct events and attractions is important in maintaining young professionals in the community. It’s worth an open discussion and some outside-the-box thinking.