The Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry received a huge boost on Monday in its effort to become the official Tourism Promotion Agency, receiving the support of Warren City Council.
Representatives from the Warren County Visitors Bureau, Jim Decker with the WCCBI and Warren County Commissioner John Eggleston were on hand at the Monday meeting to make their pitch for who should be the county's Tourism Promotion Agency.
The Warren County Commissioners enacted a resolution last month to change the county's official Tourism Promotion Agency from the Warren County Visitors Bureau to the WCCBI. Along with the designation is approximately $140,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue that must be allocated specifically for tourism.
Municipalities representing more than 50 percent of the county's population are required to approve the Warren County Commissioners' plan to designate the Warren County Chamber of Business and Industry as the county's Tourism Promotion Agency as of Jan. 1.
The City of Warren and its over 9,000 residents are a significant part of that goal.
While council's decision was not unanimous, council concurred with the commissioners in appointing the WCCBI as the county's TPA.
Representatives from each of the three entities have criss-crossed the county in recent weeks, attending municipal meetings and encouraging local officials to support their cause.
Councilman John Lewis, the sole dissenting vote, asked who empanelled the WCVB initially. When Eggleston said the commissioners did, Lewis responded by saying that "you are seeking to undo what you did."
"That is correct," Eggleston responded.
"I look at the Warren County Visitors Bureau as having been created with a mission by the commissioners," Lewis said, adding that he is "not sure where the lack of oversight came in. I look at the WCVB as well connected to a promotion of tourism. Whether they see one person a day or 50 people a day, it really doesn't matter. The commissioners put them there to do that job" and "failed to monitor from a financial level the entity which it created."
Mayor Mark Phillips abstained as his position as mayor brings him a seat on the WCCBI board.
Every other council member supported the commissioners' decision and offered commentary defending their decision. "This whole issue has had a sense of controversy and negativity surrounding it," Councilman Joseph Sprentz said. "I personally think both boards bring certain attributes and if both boards work together on this" they can "see something very positive come out of this. I personally feel you should embrace this opportunity."
Councilman Dr. Howard Ferguson concurred. "It appears that an offer to bring the two boards together did not come to fruition (but) makes a lot of sense. As far as the money is concerned, the WCCBI is talking about 70 percent for the program and 30 percent administration based on existing infrastructure. That seems to be to be hard to beat."
Regarding traffic at the visitor's center in Starbrick, he added that there is "no compelling reason to believe it is meaningful" and is "not compelling that it is bringing a lot of tourism into the (county)."
He said that there is "no reason to believe that there was anything except hard work and due diligence on the part of the Warren County commissioners" in pursuing this path and noted that the decision to switch to the WCCBI "perhaps is timely."
Councilman Jim Zavinski noted that both the WCCBI and the WCVB "had a good case. Is there a right or wrong? I don't know. (If we) keep bickering about things, Warren doesn't move forward. I have to go with what the commissioners proposed. We got to move forward. They (WCCBI) have more assets and things available to move us forward."
Council Vice President Maurice Cashman echoed that sentiment.
"The WCCBI has a forward plan that is much, much more aggressive," he said. "We have to get promoting ourselves a lot more aggressively and the WCCBI has laid that out and the Warren County Commissioners have realized that."