The town-sponsored biker rally, planned for August of next year, now officially has a name.
At its monthly meeting last Monday, members of the Tourism Development Authority (TDA) unanimously voted on the name after hearing from event promoter Sylvia Cochran, publisher of U.S. Rider News.
After trying to figure out what to call the rally, Cochran, along with the help of her husband and business partner Scott Cochran, finally decided on “Smoky Mountain Rumble.” After little deliberation, the board approved the event name.
“We needed a name before we can go any further,” said Cochran. “We liked ‘rumble’. Of course rumble means motorcycling.”
In the next three months, Cochran added that she would begin establishing the event’s online presence by creating a Facebook account and constructing a site (http://www.smokymountainrumble.com/), of which she and her husband had secured a URL of the event’s name prior to the meeting.
“We know Facebook is where everyone is right now online,” said Cochran, noting that internet interaction drives enthusiasm for such events.
TDA members unanimously voted to fund the $1,245 needed for the creation of the site. Five hundred dollars for site marketing and promotion was among the expenditures within the grant, as well as $100 to create a Facebook page, $525 for Facebook advertising through Dec. 31 of 2011 ($5 per day) and $100 for logo creation.
Ron Haven, TDA member and local hotel owner, lauded the advent of motorcycle tourism, saying the event was a good response to the dollars borne from it. “I would say there were about 1,000 bikes in Franklin last May ... I took it upon myself to ask some of them what they spent when they were here and they put about $1,000 every time they are here ... Last time I checked a thousand times a thousand is a million.”
In order to capitalize on Macon County’s role as a corridor for motorcyclists that annually pass through, TDA members have been planning the 2012 August biker rally for more than a year, which shares a similar timeline as that of another event—the Ruby Bash rally.
In recent months, the board met with Cochran to help promote the event. Cochran organizes and promotes several motorcycle rallies around the country, including the annual Reunion Run in Helen, Ga., through her motorcycle enthusiast publications. Last July, Cochran requested $10,800 from the TDA for her services, after receiving $4,000 from the board last spring.
Through her publications, Cochran intends to market the Franklin event, by running full page advertisements for three months in Thunder Press Motorcycle Magazine and running full page color ads beginning in January until the month of the event in U.S. Rider News.
In addition to using her own publications, Cochran plans to run advertisements in other newspapers and radio stations in the surrounding areas, according to her July grant request, which also indicates the distribution of 10,000 promotional event fliers and the creation of a Facebook account.
The TDA unanimously voted to schedule the motorcycle festival for Aug. 17-19.
New member to be recommended to Town for TDA, others overlooked
The board also unanimously voted to recommend local online businessman Matt Bateman as a new TDA member to the Town of Franklin.
Bateman, operator of www.stayandplayinthesmokies.com, was approved for recommendation after he had expressed an interest in joining the board in recent months. Bateman’s site acts as an online tour guide for WNC visitors, and is owned by Drake Enterprises, as TDA Chairman Candy Presley noted. “We had actually turned him down before because he is a Drake employee,” she said, concerned of a possible conflict of interest.
“We need someone who can network and get around online ... he would be a wealth of information,” said TDA member Ellen Jenkins. “I think he would make a good addition.”
Among other local business professionals to be considered were ABC store manager Todd Mason and Stewart’s Jewelry employee Gail Harris.
“I’ve not talked to anybody about being a member,” said Mason of joining the TDA. “But I wouldn’t have a problem with it. I’ve always been interested in being involved in politics and local business.” He added that he would consider attending the next TDA meeting to express interest in becoming a member.
Although flattered for the consideration, Harris said she was unaware of the nomination and unable to perform TDA duties. “I am treasurer at my church. Full time and doing that is all I can handle. I can’t take on anything right now,” said Harris.
Other local business professionals that have expressed interest in joining the board were however not discussed at Monday’s meeting, including Historical Society director Bob Poindexter and Macon County News editor Colin Gooder.
Last month, Gooder came before the board seeking to fill one of the two empty TDA seats. In a letter of interest dated March 14, Gooder appealed to the board for consideration as a member, citing his nearly 20 years of experience in a tourist-realted industry “that directly reflects the business community in and around Franklin.”
According to Town Planner and TDA member Michael Grubermann, Gooder’s presence on the TDA has the potential for a conflict of interest, given the direct TDA coverage by his publication and the advertising revenue collected from various local businesses which support his paper.
Because neither individual was mentioned at Monday’s meeting, Gooder expressed skepticism of the board’s recent decision.
“While I agree that Matthew Bateman may be able to contribute to the community as a member of the TDA, the Authority requires two additional members besides his
appointment,” said Gooder on Wednesday. “It’s not an ‘either/or’ situation, and his appointment does not preclude the appointment of other members such as myself or Bob Poindexter of the Macon County Historical Museum.”
After expressing interest initially last spring, Gooder explained he was not contacted by any member of the TDA, until he was advised to attend last month’s meeting to express his interest in joining.
“Several members questioned whether it would be a conflict of interest to serve,” Gooder recalled. “Yet when I asked for any of the current leadership to explain how it would be a conflict of interest, not one person could, or would, venture to do so. Now the board has brought forth names of individuals who have never actually expressed any interest in being a member of the TDA, and ignored my application when taking a vote on nominations, without justification or following proper procedures,” he said, adding that there was no public explaination of the situation.
“I think Mr. Bateman is a good choice, but it cannot be ignored that he is also employed by the same company that employs the TDA chairperson,” Gooder continued, believing more independent and balanced additional membership on the TDA is needed.
The bylaws state that there are supposed to be a set number of members that represent hotels, inns, and the ‘room occupancy’ industry. But the entire TDA membership is not supposed to represent the occupancy industry, and it is designed that way so that other tourist-related businesses are represented as well.
TDA ratifies online vote
According to Presley, at the end of their meeting last month, TDA members unanimously voted to provide advertising funds for next month’s Outdoor Athlon.
Rob Gasbarro and Cory McCall, proprietors of the downtown Franklin outfitter store Outdoor 76, did not have an advertising quote for Atlanta-based radio station 104.7 at the Aug. 8 TDA meeting. Because they had a deadline to meet if they wanted to advertise the event, Presley said Gasbarro and Mc- Call had to send her the quote by email so TDA members could read it over and approve the grant (totaling $3,500).
In addition to the radio ad, which has already been secured, the Athlon organizers were also granted the use of two TDA-leased billboards in Georgia.
TDA to be clear on meetings
At Monday’s meeting, Town Manager and TDA member Sam Greenwood said that the board should be more clear on where it holds its meetings.
“Since it is a public body, we need to keep it clear on where we are going to be to maintain constant awareness,” he said, adding that the TDA moves from restaurant to restaurant every month to spread its business. “We need to do a better job of posting these meetings online to cut down on confusion.” He suggested posting scheduled meetings earlier on the town’s website weeks in advance.
The next TDA meeting was scheduled to be held at Cajun Connection, should the central air conditioning be functional, on Oct. 10 at 5:30 p.m.