City supports chamber’s $10,000 funding request

City Council
By: 
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     During the Nov. 7 Monticello City Council, the Monticello Area Chamber of Commerce (MACC) requested $10,000 of financial support from the city.

   Chamber Director Bobby Krum was present to answer any questions from the council, as were several of his board of directors.

   Krum sent a letter to city officials and council members, outlining the reasons behind the funding request.

   The chamber's fiscal year runs from July 1 through June 30.

   The funds would be used for two main projects: Grow MACC's tourism focus and to help celebrate the chamber's 100th year as a non-profit organization in 2023.

   "The chamber has historically operated solely on membership and sponsorship funding," the letter noted. "While we have been able to recover and sustain financially over time, this model does not allow us to expand or earmark for specific projects."

   This $10,000 request is also something MACC would like the city to consider on an annual basis "for long-term growth in tourism and beyond."

   With MACC's partnership with Main Street Monticello/Iowa, MACC will be able to shift their downtown focus to help increase efforts toward regional tourism.

   "With tourism comes advertising and marketing that will drastically increase our yearly budget," Krum noted in his letter. "We need to publicly promote and encourage Monticello to be a destination."

   MACC is looking to invest $2,500 in a new website, $1,880 in regional printed advertising, $1,000 to $1,500 in targeted social media advertising, and $4,800 in the 100th anniversary celebration.

   The anniversary would include a large-scale community celebration/dinner, a commemorative souvenir "Monti-Opoly" board game specific to Monticello, and recognition of local businesses who have been operating for 100 years or more.

   "We've proven that we want to be here for the next 100 years," Krum said.

   The city has never contributed to MACC at this financial level; they've just paid their annual dues in the amount of $580.

   "The city and chamber can have a great partnership together to better our community as a whole," expressed Krum to the council.

   He said with expanding tourism, he feels it's his goal to "draw people to our community and attractions to be able to spend money, time, shop, eat and visit Monticello.”

   In the last six months since Krum was hired as the new MACC director, he's grown the chamber by 27 percent with 32 new members.

   "We're definitely growing the chamber, and we have a focus that we can definitely help grow the community as a whole," he said.

   After taking part in a webinar, Krum found out that 28 percent of Monticello's visitors come in July during the Great Jones County Fair.

   "Almost a third of all of our visitors come in July and we're missing the other 11 months throughout the year," Krum said of attracting visitors year-round.

   On average, a person comes to Monticello from 119 miles away.

   Krum said a lot of people come to the area from Madison, Wis.

   "A lot of people come here from Wisconsin and we don't advertise there. We don't promote and tell people there what we have available here. I really think there is a great opportunity for us to promote our community and to let people know about all of the great things we have here."

   Krum said when people drive into town off Highway 151, there is a sign noting tourism information. Yet, there is nothing directing them where to find that information.

   "There's no signage, no advertising, no promotions. People come here now and we're missing them."

   In terms of the Monti-Opoly game, the chamber plans to sell board spaces and sponsorships. Krum said the project has the potential to raise $10,500 for the chamber.

   The city contributes $15,000 to Jones County Economic Development, between $3,000 and $4,000 to Jones County Tourism, and recently $40,000 to Main Street Monticello.

   "The one thing we need to think about is that we're coming into budget year," warned Mayor Dave Goedken.

   Council members Candy Langerman stipulated that some of the city's appropriations support countywide entities; MACC promotes Monticello.

   The big question was where the $10,000 would come from. City Administrator Russ Farnum said there is some money remaining in Hotel/Motel Tax, but not enough. Farnum said it could also come from the General Fund.

   "Last year, you had $35,000 in Hotel/Motel Tax," shared City Clerk Sally Hinrichsen. "It's starting to pick back up after COVID."

   MACC's first print advertisement in "Travel Iowa" is due Nov. 15, at a cost of $490. Krum said it'd be nice to make that deadline to promote Monticello.

   "Helping us will definitely help the community," he said.

   The council approved the $10,000 contribution to the chamber for the coming fiscal year.

   "More than 1,000 people come and camp here on the weekends," Krum said of the various campgrounds in the community. "That grows our population by almost 1,000 every weekend. There are people who come here to work in our industries and then leave. Let's get them to shop downtown, eat lunch, and come back on the weekends with their families."

   With the council's approval of the funding request, city staff (Farnum and Hinrichsen) will coordinate with the chamber on the best avenue to withdraw the funds.

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