Tourism growth takes time

MCTA has new funds application form

Although the Moffat County Tourism Association has been a source of money for advertising local events for years, business as usual no longer applies when referring to the new MCTA.

At a recent workshop, 17 agencies showed up to apply for money to promote Moffat County events, and some found the dollars harder to come by.

A new four-page application awaits those seeking advertising money from MCTA.

"In the past we were pretty free with the money we gave out for advertising," MCTA director Shelley Flannery said. "What we want to do is explain our new application."

The tightening of MCTA's money belt is the result of a number of factors.

Funded by a 1.9 percent lodging tax on motel rooms, the MCTA decided to expand its funding sources by applying for grants at state and federal levels, Flannery said.

Many of those grants call for matching money from the organization. That means setting aside dollars to have them available when applying for grants.

Hiring Flannery, who has experience applying for grants, as a full-time MCTA director was the first step in achieving that goal.

"Establishing those grants in the first year or two is a priority," she said. "I'm looking at events and partnerships to see where money can be saved."

The way to complete the picture is to have event organizers fill out applications when applying for advertising money from MCTA.

A limit of $500 for advertising per event has been set this year, unless the event is expanding and can bring in more visitors from out of the area.

Organizations that are reaching out to tourists with a new event, expanding or adding activities to an event can apply for $750.

For Craig city manager Jim Ferree, much more work is involved this year to secure less money for the city's Whittle the Wood event.

Last year, MCTA gave $2,500 to Whittle the Wood.

"My concern is MCTA won't be involved in some of these special events such as Whittle the Wood," Ferree said. "We're in the process of raising thousands of dollars. This seems cumbersome to raise $500. We could do better raising money somewhere else."

Ferree added that Whittle the Wood is a $30,000 five-day event that brings a lot of traffic to town. It is advertised in Grand Junction, Meeker and Steamboat Springs, and there are no plans to expand the event.

Flannery said that while Whittle the Wood is a popular event, it doesn't fill Craig motel rooms, one goal of MCTA.

The new guidelines come from the county commissioners, who oversee the MCTA budget, Flannery said.

"We hired a director to recruit tourism to Moffat County," commissioner Tom Gray said. "The (MCTA) board evaluates how the money is spent. All the board members are members of the chamber of commerce and tourism business people. We want to do something positive."

One goal of the MCTA is to supply more dollars to the Dinosaur Visitors Center, a location that receives more annual visitors than the Craig Visitors Center.

The Dinosaur Visitors Center is operated from May through October and has a part-time director overseeing a volunteer staff.

The first years of the MCTA's new direction may take some getting used to, but there will be benefits in the future, Flannery said.

"The upside is that the (lodging tax) fund may come in greater than anticipated, and the rewards will climb," she said. "We have had positive responses from the fair board, the Maybell horse-drive and Grand Olde West Days."

Gray said the MCTA has re-focused its priorities.

"We're looking to recruit new tourism and events, and they're going to have to show results in that direction," he said. "That doesn't happen overnight."

Dan Olsen can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 207, or dolsen@craigdailypress.com.

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