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CIty’s marketing efforts may get boost

Published 1:09am Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The sharpened pencils came out Monday night as Washington’s City Council began reviewing the proposed budget for the upcoming 2013-2014 fiscal year.

The council, with assistance from City Manager Josh Kay, on Monday went through a general review of the general-fund portion of the overall city budget. The council is slated to take a more-detailed look at the general fund during a meeting Thursday. The meeting begins at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall.

A general review of utility funds is set for May 6, followed by a detailed review of those funds on May 9. Those meetings also begin at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers.

During the review of the general fund Monday, Mayor Archie Jennings and some council members indicated they would consider spending more money to market the city in an attempt to draw more visitors. The Washington Tourism Development Authority has been marketing the city for several years, using most of the revenue from the city’s occupancy tax to help pay for that marketing effort.

As the council discussed funding for wayfinding and streetscape projects in Washington, Jennings suggested it may be a better investment for the city to spend money allocated for such projects on marketing the city to areas 100 miles or more from the city. The mayor said he has no problems with wayfinding and streetscape projects.

“My concern is this: almost all of our projects of that vein have been right here in Washington. I would submit that the dollars could be levered to a greater degree if we were marketing Washington outside of our market. In other words, to you stay inside of your house all day dusting, cleaning and sprucing and whatnot, and never invite anybody to come over and benefit from the dusting and sprucing and all that sort of thing, or you do some of both and put some marketing in a designated, funded manner out away from here somewhere and tell somebody about Washington?” Jennings said. “I think right now what we’re doing is fluffing pillows back home a lot.”

Councilman Doug Mercer weighed in on the issue.

“If you recall a couple of years ago, we allocated $16,000 to the downtown group for advertisement outside of the city for advertising of events,” Mercer said. “I think the first year, it was probably spent in that manner. But now that $16,000 is just part of a general allocation and it’s being rolled into the general budget. If we’re going to say that 16 grand that we added to our budget a couple years ago is for advertising outside the area, I think we ought to be specific and say that.”

Jennings said is looking for “a balanced approach and one that we can point to in the budget instead of having to pick out bits and pieces and say this falls in that category and that falls in that category.”

“I’d like to see an internal and external paying of respect to both channels,” he said.

“Any specific recommendations that we can do for you?” responded Kay.

“Well, if we need to get with the TDA or whoever it is, I’d like to have an annual marketing budget and campaign and assets in that campaign that we can point to and say, ‘That’s something we do.’ With all due respect, $16,000 ain’t going to get it. … We need to go on the offensive about telling the story of Washington. When we tell, it the people come. It’s great. Like I say, I think there are too many people in North Carolina who don’t know we’re here,” the mayor said.

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