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May 6, 2012

FINANCING FUN: Tourism bureau sets bond record; sets strategic plan for the future

Bureau says it's now filing annual audit reports

JEFFERSONVILLE — In 2011, the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention and Tourism Bureau designated the largest amount of bond financing for capital projects in its history, dedicating $1.18 million toward five projects in the two counties.

John Gilkey, tourism bureau director of communications, said despite a recovering economy, local tourism and tourism-based businesses have faired better than expected.

“We’ve bucked the trend,” he said. “Most of our hotels have indicated, in spite of everything, they’ve done pretty good in this economy. Not great, but if you look at the national trend, most of them are fairly happy.”

The bureau uses 25 percent of a 3 percent room tax collected from hotels and motels in Clark and Floyd counties to fund its capital projects.

Bonded projects

Among projects financed from the Capital Development Tourism Fund in 2011 were $300,000 to Jeffersonville to help pay for a new RiverStage; $274,175 to the New Albany Fire Museum; $300,000 for planning, design and fabrication of exhibits in the 2,000-square-foot Clarksville History Museum; $250,000 for the ongoing redesign and update to the Falls of the Ohio Interpretive Center; and $45,000 to edit and secure retail and broadcast rights to an interactive multimedia program that will be the center of a permanent exhibit in New Albany’s Carnegie Center for Art and History.

The five projects were included in the same financing to help lower the bond issuance costs.

With the amount of funding designated in 2011, it is expected that there will be less to go around this year.

“They are definitely not going to do something as big [this] year,” Gilkey said. “There will undoubtedly be requests for funding and those are considered regularly on a basis of what funds are available.”

The requests have already started to come in. At its first meeting with the new board, a request from the New Albany Bicentennial Commission of $36,000 for a book of short stories and archival photos commemorating New Albany’s history was presented. The request was not approved, but the board did designate $15,000 to go toward the bicentennial celebration.

Gilkey said that the boost in funds being spent on local capital development projects shows that local businesses are more aware of the benefit the tourism bureau can provide.

“I think that kind of shows that there was an epiphany on the part of the communities that these tourism dollars really are brining in revenue to our community and we need to go out and spend these dollars, get this infrastructure in place and use tourism to bring in the new dollars,” he said. “I think the communities are awakening to the fact that there is a really good return on investment in tourism dollars, and consequentially we had the largest request for capital funding that this bureau has ever seen.”

But one project the tourism bureau has dedicated funding to has already sunk.

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