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TMCNet:  Visitor's bureau to rent interstate billboards for 2014 [Statesville Record & Landmark, N.C.]

[December 07, 2013]

Visitor's bureau to rent interstate billboards for 2014 [Statesville Record & Landmark, N.C.]

(Statesville Record & Landmark (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dec. 07--The Statesville Convention & Visitors Bureau's board of directors voted Wednesday to sign a $75,000 one-year contract for 2014 to rent eight billboards -- two in each direction headed into town -- advertising reasons to stop in Statesville along interstates 40 and 77.

The CVB has long considered billboards as a means of increasing visitor traffic to Statesville, and voted to have Statesville Finance Director Lisa Salmon draft a $79,000 budget amendment to cover the rental and the $4,000 cost of printing the signs.

"You have 100,000 cars that drive by every day. If we pull 1 percent of those off, the economic impact will be dramatic," said board member David Bradley, president of the Greater Statesville Chamber of Commerce.

The annual cost of the billboards is a massive expenditure for the bureau, and would account for just over half of the CVB's total revenues of $156,875 from the last fiscal year, which it collected from a 1-cent cut of the city's hotel/motel occupancy tax. To help cover the expense, the bureau hopes to persuade the Statesville City Council to partner with it on the billboards.

Without a partner, the CVB needed to find $41,500 in its budget for this fiscal year, which ends June 30, to cover the cost of the signs and half of the lease. The board came up with $26,000 by reallocating $21,000, or 59 percent, of its sales and marketing budget, along with $5,000, or 48 percent, of its travel and training budget. The bureau will draw the remaining $15,500 from its fund balance of $120,000.

Salmon advised the board not to let its fund balance fall below $80,000, or 40 percent of its total expenses last fiscal year of just under $200,000.

To help entice the city council to chip in on the billboards, board chairman Phil Hazel said he wanted the board to devise a system for local businesses to track the number of customers the signs draw to Statesville.

Emphasizing that the mechanism should be fun and stupid-proof, Hazel threw out one idea for a very simple system.

"I think we should have a Statesville pickle jar everywhere that was willing to accept one and a five-pound bag of black marbles," he said.

"And every time someone comes in and you ask them, 'Well, how did you hear about Statesville?' If they say, 'I saw the signs on the interstate,' you drop a black marble in the jar." Board member Von Patel said many hotels, including his, already ask guests how they found their business and record the information on computers, so they could simply add another code for the city's billboards. Salmon said that system had the added benefit of directly measuring the signs' affect on hotel/motel occupancy tax revenues.

With the decision to sign the contract for 2014 made, board member Jimmy Patel said the bureau needed to hurry and design the actual signs before the holidays.

"If January's the deadline, you've got Christmas, so you're looking at a couple of weeks. Otherwise, you're paying without having anything up. That's happened to me before," he said.

Audit and appointments Salmon presented an independent financial audit of the bureau's last fiscal year by Potter & Company Certified Public Accountants. Salmon walked the board through the audit, and said the firm had issued a clean and unqualified report.

"All in all, it's a very good report," she said.

The directors also voted to nominate two members to fill vacancies on their nine-member board, which city council will have to approve. The board nominated Bharat Desai, who owns and manages the Ramada Inn, Days Inn and Best Western in Statesville, along with Taylor Dennard, who manages the Courtyard by Marriot.

___ (c)2013 the Statesville Record & Landmark (Statesville, N.C.) Visit the Statesville Record & Landmark (Statesville, N.C.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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