Direct Marketing Organization recommendation postponed

Published 7:06 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The LaGrange City Council vote on the future of the city’s tourism dollars, which was originally expected to take place on Thursday, has been delayed for another two weeks to allow City Manager Meg Kelsey to review updated proposals from the groups vying to control how the funds are spent.

Kelsey plans make her recommendation to the council during the regularly scheduled July 23 city council meeting.

“This is an important decision for our community, and I need more time to thoroughly review the revised proposals,” Kelsey said. “The mayor and council are aware of the delay and feel it’s prudent to make the right decision.” 

The city council announced it intended to break its long-standing tourism contract with the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce in April of this year. The contract officially ended July 1. After the announcement in April, Kelsey subsequently put out a request for proposals (RFP) from qualifying 501(c)(6) organizations to manage the tourism fund moving forward and received three proposals for consideration. One came from the chamber, while another came from the recently-formed Troup County Tourism Development Authority. The third came from an out-of-state group. 

In an email from Kelsey, she explained that the original proposals submitted did not meet the “scope or intent” of the RFP. While she was prepared to reject the bids, she allowed the two local groups to resubmit bids that more closely aligned with the RFP.

“I was prepared to reject all bids as they didn’t meet the scope or intent of the RFP,” Kelsey said via email. “Instead, I went back to two of the proposers (Troup County Tourism [Development] Authority and the Chamber of Commerce) and provided the opportunity to resubmit budgets that aligned with the idea of a DMO [Direct Marketing Organization] that is a direct conduit to a Professional Marketing Firm. I received those bids late Friday afternoon. I have done an initial review of the documents but have been out of town the last several days attending the Annual MEAG [Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia] conference.”

The City of LaGrange is a member of MEAG. Both the Chamber of Commerce and the Troup County Tourism Development Authority responded to the delay. 

“This is a very important decision for our community’s overall economic development efforts, and we appreciate Meg’s thoughtful consideration of the proposals that she has received, including ours,” said Chamber of Commerce President Page Estes.

“I thought all parties were prepared and the recommendation would have been made at their (city council’s) work session at 11 a.m. tomorrow,” said Jeff Brown, representing the Troup County Tourism Development Authority. “We were taken by surprise, but I certainly respect Meg to not rush the decision on something so important like this.” 

The majority of the city’s tourism budget comes from the 8 percent hotel/motel tax levied in LaGrange. Five percent of that overall 8 percent is required to be used for tourism, and 3.5 percent of those funds are required to funnel through a “destination marketing organization” or private sector, nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization. The chamber was that organization for the city from the early 90s until July 1 of this year.

Over the last few years, as LaGrange has added amenities, the revenue from the hotel/motel tax has increased. As previously reported, that revenue increased from $564,253 in 2014 to $765,349 in 2018, a jump of nearly 30 percent.