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News TDA tables grant requests

Faded Wreckage plays at last year’s Ruby Bash. Rally organizer Karen Flowers asked the TDA for $7,500 to put on on the event again this year.Focuses on implementation of marketing strategy

The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) met on Monday, Feb. 11 for its monthly meeting to discuss the current financial state of the entity.

Board member Summer Woodard opened the meeting by giving the financial report. In December 2012, the board collected $4,746.80, with a net collection of $166,089.89, for Fiscal Year 2012-13 to-date, with $93,520.38 in the less reserve. The purpose of the reserve is to provide money to the board in case of an emergency.

Total disbursements totaled $72,569.51 which were distributed from July 1, 2012 until January 31, 2013. During the month of January, the TDA's commitments totaled $16,839.32, which means that the TDA has spent $89,408.83 of the $100,000 budget it is allowed per fiscal year with five months remaining before the next fiscal year begins on July 1.

Woodard urged the board to stop expenditures until the current commitments are paid stating that starting a new year with commitments still outstanding would be unwise. Chairman Candy Presley and board member Mike Gruberman agreed.

According to town attorney John Henning Jr., the TDA would legally be able to use its reserve funds if it decided to, but for now, the board has no intentions of doing so citing a hypothetical circumstance in the future that may require those funds.

“I think we may also need protocols as far as accessing that reserve,” said board member Matt Bateman, “I mean what's the green light issue, where we go, ok, we're going to use this, as opposed to just winging it.”

According to Presley, the discussion of a marketing plan that is scheduled for March 20, would help to address such issues. Until said meeting, the board moved to table further grant requests until they could decide on a strategy to implement through the end of June.

Outstanding payments are owed to Tony Angel Media. In the meantime, however, Angel declared that regardless of payment or the budget situation that the TDA has found themselves in, he would continue to do the work he has been assigned for the benefit of the town and the tourism industry. Henning suggested that the board use funds that are left in the current budget to continue paying Angel on a month-to-month basis.

Nikki and Scotty Corbin presented on behalf of the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in hopes of persuading the TDA to include the SMCPA in the upcoming marketing plan. Scotty Corbin requested a pledge from the board based on specific numbers including the 9,544 tickets sold for events from January to June, showing an increase of 3,400 from this same time last year, crediting this success to advertising outside of Macon County.

For the upcoming fiscal year, the Corbins hope for a $50,000 grant, $4,100 a month, citing the fact that 85 percent of a single crowd present at a January show came from beyond the county which brings outside dollars to the town of Franklin.

The Taste of Scotland and the Airing of the Quilts festivals both occur before the new fiscal year begins, bringing about discussion of whether to go ahead and commit monies from the remaining $10,000 to these events, but after approaching the matter from multiple sides, the board decided to allow presentations and take votes on the matters at the next meeting pending further discussion.

New grant requests were encouraged to present regardless of the budget concerns expressed during the early parts of the meeting. Deb Heatherly gave a presentation on the annual Airing of the Quilts Festival, which has been a popular event in the past. She requested $1,500 and two billboards to help with advertising.

Linda Schlott followed suit by discussing the Franklin Folk Festival which will take place for the 10th year on Main Street. The Main Street program will assist in producing the festival this year and requested $2,000 and two billboards.

Karen Flowers, representing the Dedicated Bikers of WNC then discussed the Ruby Bash Rally which takes place Aug. 30 and 31, Labor Day weekend. This year, the organization will once again choose a charity to contribute to. Flowers requested whichever billboards the TDA deemed available and also asked for $7,500 in grant money which she hoped would help bring people from all around the southeast for the event.

Ron Haven closed out the grant requests by asking the board to help him with transportation costs that he spends busing hikers from various Appalachian Trail locations into Franklin. He cited the fact that hikers spend money all over the town, including specific monetary figures at local outfitters stores. He also expressed the financial stress that occurs when there are 75 hikers a day coming in to Franklin. Haven requested funds to assist with half of his fuel bill.

Those who presented grant requests agreed to attend the follow up meeting on March 11. The meeting ended with a presentation from Sekou Coleman and Jessy Boswell of Ugo Tours. Coleman and Boswell have developed a mobile app that, with the help of the TDA, the company has been trying to get on track for the last two years to give visitors to Macon County a guided look at the attractions that are unique to the area.

The TDA will hold its next meeting on March 11, at 5:30 p.m. at town hall to continue discussion of its current financial situation and to prepare for its marketing strategy retreat which takes place on March 20, in the same location.

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