Brittney Lofthouse – Staff Writer
The Franklin Tourism Development Authority (TDA) approved a $15,000 grant for the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts on Monday night, but not without first discussing the issue.
The Franklin TDA is charged with disbursing room occupancy tax collections to businesses and organizations geared toward the promotion of travel and tourism in the Franklin area. Monday night, they increased their annual budget to $129,000 due to an increase in tax collections last fiscal year. The TDA’s budget, which is developed by Premiere Marketing, includes funding for advertising, marketing, as well as grant requests from the community.
Of the TDA’s $129,000 budget, $35,000 is earmarked for grant requests. Organizations ranging from the Franklin Area Folk Festival, to Outdoor 76’s annual Naturalist 25k/50k race, to Crabtree Enterprises New Years Eve Ruby Drop have applied and been granted funds. The largest grant the TDA allocates each year goes to the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts in the amount of $15,000. Prior to Monday night’s budget increase, the TDA previously allocated $25,000 for events and festival grants, $15,000 of which was earmarked for the Smoky Mountain Center, leaving $10,000 for other other organizations.
The TDA’s partnership with the SMCPA began in 2012 when the center requested and was given $10,000. Since 2013, the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts has received annual grant allocations from the TDA in the amount of $15,000.
TDA member Summer Woodard said that while she supports the SMCPA and acknowledged their significant impact on tourism for the county, she was concerned with an unwritten board policy that in the past lead to other organizations receiving less funds each consecutive year.
While it is not a written policy of the TDA, over the years, the board has adopted the sentiment that events and festivals requesting funds from the TDA should work toward becoming self-sufficient and not reliant on the TDA for funding. The intent behind the rule, is to allow the TDA to fund new events that can bring new people to the region. Over the last few years, organizations or businesses have been asked to decrease their grant requests to use fewer TDA dollars.
TDA members have also approved grant requests in lower amounts than what an organization requested due to the unwritten “rule.” Woodard noted on Monday night that, if the TDA was going to adhere to the policy for others requesting funds, then they should either apply the same rule to the SMCPA or do away with the rule.
TDA member Tim Crabtree said the “rule” isn’t a written one and because of that supported the SMCPA’s full grant request. The TDA approved the continued funding for the SMPCA unanimously.