TDA contemplates funding upcoming Franklin attractions

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Carolyn L. Higgins – Contributing Writer

The Tourism Development Authority (TDA) often uses the phrase “Heads in Beds” to guide their decision-making. Its primary responsibility is  “overseeing how room occupancy tax dollars are spent to promote travel and tourism in Franklin, North Carolina.” The TDA considered this principle and line items in their operating budget as a guideline for funding requests on the April 10 agenda.  Board application and reappointment matters, protecting intellectual property rights to “Discover Franklin,” and media reach was also addressed. 

Funding for Taste of Scotland

After approval of the February minutes, New Business was prioritized.  George James, chairperson for Taste of Scotland Festival presented a request to fund critical advertising needs for the Festival scheduled June 14 to 17.  Lloyd Swift, interim treasurer for the Festival which highlights Scottish and Celtic traditions, had provided a document prior to the TDA meeting, showing growth since 1990 and how public participation has increased as media coverage expanded. In contrast, the document highlighted decreased exposure in 19 media markets due to lack of anticipated funding in 2017. Swift stated in the funding application:  “The Taste of Scotland Committee desires to build upon the success of 2017 by enlarging the media outreach.”

James accentuated the goal of added attractions this year was to draw more traffic and attention to the Scottish Tartans Museum, Franklin and local heritage. A key attraction has been the Highland Games.

 “This year there will be a full-on competition of the Games contests, not just a demonstration as in the past,” said James.  “The Games will be held in the field near the Lazy Hiker and Enterprise Car Rentals. Spectators may watch from the banks of the field as athletes compete. We are excited to work with Eastern Tennessee promoter Brenden Bohannon who will bring 30 to 35 athletes from several states to compete.  

“We are using our local hotels and B&Bs to house entertainment and our games coordinator for the event and working on getting some additional folks to come in for a hotel,” said James. He is pushing hotels for the athletes over the three-day weekend, beginning on Friday. Other current initiatives by the Festival include social media, tagging on to promoters with the games promoter and others participating in the event, including athletes, seeking links on business pages and website creation for the festival.  

Protection of Discover Franklin Domain

Town Manager Summer Woodard made the Board aware of discussions with Premiere Marketing.  “They want to give us a heads-up that it doesn’t look like  Discover Franklin has been copyrighted,” said Woodard.  “So they actually got a heads-up from the [Franklin] Chamber that somebody was trying to possibly do an app with that domain name.”

Woodard said rough estimate worst cost would be $1500 but probably significantly less if they wanted to copyright their name. Woodard suggested the Board might ask Premiere if they wanted to include it in when they present their budget proposal for this upcoming year.  She asked the Board to consider if it is something they wanted to address now, but wanted to acknowledge appreciation of the heads-up and make everyone aware of the status. 

Board member Josh Drake noted that Discover Franklin owns the website.  “It can be time sensitive so I’ll try to get a better quote,” said Drake.  “I don’t know what it costs and I don’t know how much we want to be put into copyrighting and if there is a value there.  But until we have a concrete cost, I think that it is something we can’t decide on.”

The Board agreed to have Woodard and Drake approach Premiere again to share the Board’s interest in receiving more information and an exact quote before their May meeting.

Old Business Addressed

Gwen Taylor, president of The Streets of Franklin Heritage Association (Streets) was present to receive the status of the organization’s February requests.  The first request was for $500 to assist with advertising for Airing of the Quilts (Quilts). The yearly event held each Mother’s Day weekend – May 12 this year – is designed to display merchants’ and residents’ quilts downtown at this popular local and regional draw. It showcases a timeless historical art form with more than 30 merchants and associations participating on Main Street and all over the county. In addition to preserving heritage, Quilts seeks to draw residents and tourists alike to shop in local stores, visit local museums, enjoy the fresh air and eat at local venues. 

Woodard gave an update from last month’s request by Taylor before the Board moved forward. “If I may be real quick, Gwen did reach out to me; and she did correct some of the information that the Board wanted, and she included some advertising in there as well,” said Woodard. “So if there’s any question or additional comments, I believe she’s ready, if the board has any concerns, to address those.     

  Drake commented a reluctance “to spend 40 percent of what’s left in our budget for this category on quilts” and moved not to fund the request.  Crabtree acknowledged it was hard but that the event was well attended and his desire was to make a motion to fund less.  

The original motion failed and was withdrawn. Additional discussion followed including questions addressed by Taylor. Drake commented he had attended the event the last three years and had seen a lot people, but doesn’t know how many are coming from out-of-town.

“At this event we’re not having any vendors this year because we had to regroup with our board and with members, so I hope we’re going to have a big event,” said Taylor. “But, our vendors are paying and coming in for our next event we’re going to have. So, if there is a preference, the Appalachian Heritage is my 100 percent preference, and we’ll do the best we can with Airing of the Quilts.” 

Suggestions were provided to Taylor regarding seeking funding from the Tourism Development Commission (TDC), and after Board discussion including from Grubermann and Crabtree who are on the TDC Board, it was decided the request was too late for this budgeting term.  

Taylor expressed that Quilts may be fine with the advertising already taking place down in Georgia and advertisements being placed with Macon County News and the Franklin Press. In addition, piggybacking off other events scheduled for the same weekend would have some draw. Drake and Crabtree also concluded that.  

After weighing the options of limited funding and exposure from other events that weekend, the motion was reintroduced and approved to not fund Quilts.

  The $3,000 funding request for the Appalachian Heritage Festival for advertising fared better. The Town of Franklin’s website describes the festival:  “Sponsored by the merchants of Downtown Franklin, NC, the Appalachian Heritage Festival brings a day of free fun for all ages. Nearly 50 live demonstrations will be showcased and will feature the essence of life in Appalachia. You’ll see quilters, wood carvers, canoe builders and even a live, working gem mining flume.”

The Board experienced a similar challenge due to the remaining balance in the Miscellaneous Festivals and Events category of $1,282.82. After weighing options presented by Grubermann to split the funding request between two budgeting cycles [now and July 1] or approaching the TDC during this cycle, both were determined unfeasible.   

Woodard presented a suggestion to move it to the June meeting for the July funding cycle, but Taylor said that would present a hindrance for Quilts.  The board also weighed other requests, including the $4500 sought by Taste of Scotland and a potential request from the Franklin Chamber for partial funding for the upcoming Bar-B-Q, which could wait. Grubermann noted the TDA was ahead of the prior year in income and could consider a budget amendment.  After Drake and Woodard considered line-item adjustments, the caveat surfaced regarding watching what may appear to be there, but has already been committed.

A viable solution presented by Drake was to ask the Town Council for additional funds from the reserve account to cover requests in the Miscellaneous Festivals and Events category. “We can’t do that tonight and vote on this tonight. Now, you can postpone this and ask for additional funds because we do have additional funds available,” said Drake. “But either way and I don’t know how quickly you want this done, but we don’t have a whole lot of options for tonight.”

The final decision acceptable to Taylor and the Board was for Streets to apply for some funding with the TDC for July funding while simultaneously applying for funds from the TDA in May.  

Since the next Town Council meeting is May 7 and the next TDA meeting May 14, Woodard said the TDA Board’s suggested $5,000 from the reserve account is a reasonable request.   

“I make a motion to take $5,000 out of the reserve and put it into miscellaneous festivals, leaving us $152,000 [152,634.21],” said Drake.  

The Board tabled the original request from Taylor, then they moved on Drake’s motion that was approved. Woodard will take the request to Town Council and they’ll have their decision prior to the May 14 TDA meeting. Taylor will contact TDC in the meantime and return to TDA May 14 for their decision.

Changes to Community Newspapers, Inc. 

The Board’s last item was to discuss a handout from the Franklin Press, changing the coverage market for Community Newspapers Inc. The goal in making the changes was to spread out from the Franklin area to have a bigger draw for the TDA.

 Cashiers, Highlands and Clayton media were eliminated and replaced with papers from Elberton and Hartwell, Georgia. Woodard wanted to make the Board aware of the change; some expressed hope that it would be better, but it was acceptable to all.

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