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We need a better strategy to increase tourism

Dear Editor,

On April 9, 2019, the LaGrange City Council voted unanimously against renewing the city’s tourism agreement with the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. The agreement dictated the chamber as the Destination Marketing Organization responsible for managing the city’s hotel/motel tax dollars, which are earmarked to help increase tourism via advertising and marketing.

On May 1, the City of LaGrange issued a Request for Proposals (RFP), allowing organizations to submit proposals for how they would use these tax revenues to develop marketing plans to significantly increase tourism and do so with increased accountability and transparency.

By the closing date of May 31, three proposals had been received by the city: a proposal from the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce; a proposal from Troup County Tourism Development Authority; and a proposal from an out-of-state marketing firm.

Now the city council is faced with the task of selecting the one that will best increase tourism and better inform the council of plans, results and finances.

We have seen good growth in tourism over the last few years, and with that growth comes a larger budget for tourism marketing and with the additional funds must also come additional accountability/transparency. It is paramount that LaGrange partners with an organization that can significantly increase the awareness of potential tourists to the tourism gem that we are.

Several concerned citizens have formed an organization called the Troup County Tourism Development Authority (TC/TDA) and submitted a proposal on May 31 to the city meeting the requirements of their RFP. Email me at jeffwarnerbrown@gmail.com if you would like an electronic copy of our proposal and/or those on the Transition Committee.

Early on, these citizens realized that a transition group needed to swing into action, so they began to recruit local citizens to become the “Transition Committee” (TC). There are 10 of us, all with knowledge of tourism. We have four well-qualified minority members on our committee who represent our robust minority community, a large percentage of whom work in businesses directly tied to tourism, as well as two members who have chaired the Chamber’s Tourism Committee in the past.

We are a sounding board for those who developed our RFP, working to achieve harmony, and we are evaluating financials and reports to see how the monies have been spent and with what results. Additionally, we are immediately casting a wide net for outstanding candidates for the executive director position. Also, we are soliciting board members. Please email me if interested.

Further, we have an office on the square reserved as our visitor center. Our projected cost of personnel, rent, overhead and benefits for the TC/TDA is low. If we are selected, we should be able to dissolve the TC within 60 days.

Given what’s at stake, it is time for LaGrange to move forward with a new plan for increasing tourism. Dynamic, growing cities similar in size to LaGrange are already establishing independent conventions and visitors’ bureaus. If you support the TC/TDA proposal I have outlined above, tell your city councilman. Also, we need you to show your support on July 11 at the City Council work session at 11 a.m. and at the council meeting at 5:30 p.m. when the LaGrange City Council votes on one of the proposals.

Jeff Brown

Member of the Transition Committee of the Troup County Tourism Development Authority