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Minutes Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau Board February 16, 2011 The Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitor’s Bureau Board met at Open Eye Café, Carrboro Board Members Present: Dave Gephart, Rick Strunk, Mike Gering, Jim Norton, Laura Morgan, Mark Sherburne, Lydia Lavelle, Jim Parker, Greg Overbeck, Jim Ward, Valerie Foushee, Lee Pavao and Dwight Bassett Members Absent: Robert Kintz Staff Present: Laurie Paolicelli, Linda Ekeland, Tina Fuller, and Martha Shannon Incoming Member – Karen DeHart CALL TO ORDER Chair Dave Gephart called the meeting to order at 8:07 am WELCOME Gephart welcomed everyone and introduced our host, Scott Conary of Open Eye Café. Mr. Conary informed members that the coffee served to them this morning is El Pinabetel from Honduras, roasted by artisans of the Carrboro Coffee Company which is housed with Open Eye Café, and is considered one of the best coffees in the world. Conary stated that the Open Eye Café opened in 1997 and was originally located in the space that Neal’s Deli currently occupies. They moved to this location in 2005. Conary stated that he feels the Café is a good fit in Carrboro, noting that opportunities are more agreeable in a small town. Conary stated that his background is in Bio Chemistry. He has two goals: 1) quality is bottom line and 2) to create a reflection of the community they are in, accessible and comfortable in interaction. Scott stated that the Roastery is more of an outreach than the Café in that they consult clients locally and regionally. He also stated that he feels growth is fine but appreciates smart growth in the community. Scott picks and buys the beans directly from family farms and co-ops; farm to table. The coffee bean is the seed of a cherry. A coffee plant typically takes 3-5 years to produce the cherries (fruit). Carrboro Coffee Company (CCC) takes great care in the preparation process- “seed to cup” - and is very conscious of every step. Conary noted that coffee as compared to wine as a more diminishing window to get the best cup of coffee. Lydia Lavelle noted that Open Eye is open to the community in terms of art and music and every 3rd Friday they have Tango classes. Martha requested Conary talk a little about the judging competitions. Scott stated that the CCC staff is involved in judging competitions through SCAA and he personally trains judges; they have in house competition and the meeting room is used for training by CCC staff to compete in regional competitions. In conclusion, Scott noted that they also own Café Driade. APPROVAL OF MINUTES Mr. Gephart requested a motion to approve the January 19, 2010 minutes. Lee motioned to approve with Mike seconding. Lydia noted a few things to change. Rather than questioning if the religious group was multi-denominational she was just asking and the second referred to the Carrboro Centennial. Lydia wanted to make clear that they are working with Minnow Media in Carrboro to try to produce a documentary (it is not definite) and if they do work it out, then they will send a proposal to the Visitors Bureau. And with that Lee motioned to approve with changes. All members were in favor and the minutes were approved. Chair Gephart announced that County Commissioner Valerie Foushee will now represent the county commissioners on the visitors bureau board. REPORTS Budget & Finance Mike Gering reported that there is nothing to report this month other than December reflected overages in occupancy collection but not arrears. Mr. Gering brought up the question of the County charging the Visitor Bureau rent and if the VB is the only department paying rent. Laurie Paolicelli answered that originally when the VB was formed that it was thought to eventually spin off to a non-profit and therefore were charged rent. It may be negotiable. Paolicelli will defer to Clarence on the rent now that he is more comfortable in his position. Paolicelli will report back at next meeting. Gering stated that as a county department, it was his view that the visitors bureau should pay less rent or no rent. Gering brought up the parking at the Visitors Center. Visitors Center is essentially a retail center. Paolicelli stated that there are two handicap spots and limited parking because several offices within the Bentley Building are for rent. She stated that downtown workforce is parking in the lot and walking to their jobs down the street. Paolicelli stated that she believes they need to have stickers and start towing enforcement. What is the point of having a walk-in visitor’s center when you don’t have the parking spaces to accommodate the visitor? Paolicelli stated that she would circle back and speak to Pam Jones in Asset Management/Public Works re: a sticker system. May have to allocate spots for the VC. Lydia Lavelle stated that it is not clear on which spaces are available to the visitors center because way-finding signage directs motorists to visitors center but once there, parking spaces say Bentley Building and Skills Development. Paolicelli agreed; visitors don’t know what the Bentely Building is. Paolicelli also noted that there is a new student housing building behind the VB with a shortage of spaces so they use the VB’s. May need more directionals and repaint spaces. On another note, Mike Gering asked what the role of the board is in regard to the budget process for the County. Is the board in an advisory capacity and what to expect from the fund balance. Lee Pavao answered that the Commissioners overview the budget and the board acts in an advisory capacity. Laurie Paolicelli noted that the BOCC defers to the tourism board. She also noted that the fund balance grew over the years and the $200,000 of the fund balance that went to EDC was an unusual case. Valerie Foushee chimed in and informed that the BOCC understands the fund balance; what is required, what needs to be maintained and how may it be appropriated to where it needs to go. Ms. Foushee also noted that the Visitors Bureau is part of the EDC. Ms. Paolicelli informed board members that the normal fund balance should be 15% of the budget. The Visitors Bureau FB was near 50%. Lydia asked if 5-6% would be reasonable. Valerie stated that it could run higher since we are a smaller department Mike Gering stated that he felt if the funds come from lodging than they should be used for tourism. Dave Gephart commented that it could be used as a rainy day fund. Lee Pavao stated that the BOCC was previously anti-development and it is the boards role to take on the BOCC on these issues. Jim Ward commented that we should to find out what percentage is logical and what are the best business practices. Paolcelli stated that the State mandates 12%, which is still in there. Pavao commented that 25% is a good number. Ms. Paolicelli stated that they are already rebuilding and that May and June receipts may build up the fund balance She also stated that the Arts Commission budget moving forward would stay the same and that we should be proactive in how to use the fund balance in the future. Marketing Rick Strunk informed members that his term has expired and Karen Dehart will be representing the NCHSAA beginning March. Paolicelli informed board members that the Jennings contract is expiring and that Rick Strunk had a big part in bringing them on board to execute current marketing programs. Currently $250,000 is spent on creative, media execution, and account services. The account is 5 years old and the County encourages departments to bid out periodically. The pros of keeping with Jennings are that they are local, the cons is that some feel that their creative is politically safe and not as representative of the actual destination as it could/should be. Rick commented that he has been pleased in working with them. Laurie commented that Rick feels that we should keep Jennings and just work with them on a different approach. Rick stated that it would be difficult to start from scratch. Dwight Bassett commented that other agencies could do a better job and it is beneficial to have fresh eyes. Rick stated we might see the same issues with a ‘new guy’ as we do with the ‘old guy’. Mike Gering commented that competition is a good thing. Laurie stated that we are currently working on a 6-month interim contract with Jennings. Bureau staff would submit an RFP and solicit bids including Jennings. Paolicelli recommends having a marketing committee review this summer and possibly have on the September agenda. Mr. Pavao concurred, that we should definitely look at what’s out there. Paolicelli informed members that the bidding process in 2006 went from 13 agencies initially interested; to 7 agencies; and then to 5. Finally three agencies were seriously considered for the account. Jennings took an intimate approach and showed knowledge of the County. Dave Gephart commented that more companies are focusing on CVB’s now. Jim Ward asked Valerie Foushee what the BOCC’s role was in this process; i.e. what brand are they wanting? Valerie stated that the BOCC has accepted the current brand from this board and has found it beneficial. She also stated that she hopes this board would continue its leadership in the VB branding. Valerie mentioned that she has not heard any opposition to the current branding. Anthony Carey commented that with the back and forth issues between funding tourism, he feels we should get the county’s feedback on what criteria—if any—they would like to see in the RFP. Lee Pavao stated that the branding should be shown to the BOCC but not for the reason of asking for approval. Laurie Paolicelli stated that Frank Clifton and she had discussed branding. He agreed that Chapel Hill is the more known name and host to the hotels and he understood why we led with the name but he’d like to see the visitors bureau introduce more marketing programs that benefited the northern part of the county, i.e., agri-tourism. Mike Gering made a motion for staff to create an RFP. Lee Pavao seconded. With all members in favor, the motioned was approved. Dave Gephart requested that it go to a marketing committee first. Anthony Carey as Chair, Mark Sherburne, Dwight Bassett and Valerie Foushee were elected to serve on the committee. With that, Dave Gephart gave the floor to Mark Sherburne and Anthony Carey for a hotel trend report. Mark Sherburne reported that it has been relatively quiet starting the year and with UNC out. Demand reports are up 0-3% from US group transient. Sherburne reported that ADR is not improving. He went on to say that UNC Graduation weekend Friday May 8th, Saturday and Sunday looks very strong. Duke graduation is the weekend after. Anthony Carey made the comment that as soon as ADR goes up, occupancy goes away; bookings stop. Sherburne commented that Priceline rates for Chapel Hill are $35-45/night. The basketball program has brought strong occupancy and had about 10% displacements. Sales Report Linda Ekeland gave a report on group business. Ms. Ekeland reported that January was busy for her for group sales but they are for year 2012. She stated that 1st tier cities are up but not Chapel Hill. For good news, Linda reported that one of the Rejuvenate prospects (Campus Crusades for Christ) signed a contract with the Sheraton for 70 room nights at the end of this March. The will be returning in May for one night. However, in not so good news, The Charlotte Road Show was canceled. Out of 250 invites, only 1 RSVP’d. Linda stated that the reasons are unclear but it could be that Charlotte is so spread out and/or they don’t want to drive into the city. Linda stated that they might try the Raleigh Association market. For upcoming events, Linda reported that the UNC Blitz begins March 8th and 9th with the luncheon on the 10th. Laura Morgan sent 500 save the dates via email. Per a BOCC request, Linda reported that she would be meeting with the Women’s Center, the Rape Crisis Center and the Family Violence and Protection Center and the hotels to discuss the need of 30 room nights for the year for women in an emergency situation. Mark Sherburne inquired about Elizabeth Cardin. Linda replied that because of her physical accident she would not be working for the Bureau and she and Laurie were exploring new options. Arts Commission Martha Shannon reported that the OCAC is partnering with Americans for the Arts on an economic impact study. It is the first statewide study in NC. The Arts Commission is working with 80 plus non-profits to hand out surveys to their guests at their special events. The goal is to receive 800 completed surveys by years end. Executive Directors Report Laurie Paolicelli commented on how big an asset staff member Patty Griffin is to the Visitors Bureau. She then showed the proof of the upcoming 2011 visitors guide that Patty has been diligently working on. The visitors guide will be geographically positioned with Hillsborough on one side and Chapel Hill/Orange County on the other. The Hillsborough section will be eight pages of the 76- page guide. Continuing her report, Laurie recommended to board members, the contracting of a research agency dedicated to researching new supply in our area for the cost of one summer ad or the transfer of $15,000 - $20,000 from the fund balance. The specialists would determine new group market diversification. An RFP would go out to 3 companies. With that Laurie motioned to continue with the plan to hire a strategic planning/marketing specialist. Mark Sherburne seconded the motion. With all members in favor, the motion was passed. In conclusion, Paolicelli stated that Rick Strunk has been her mentor and an asset to this board. She then asked Rick to join us for one more meeting in March. NEW BUSINESS No new business OLD BUSINESS Chair Gephart commented that the National Trust for Historic Preservation Dozen Distinctive Destinations event had a full house at the Carolina Inn. Gephart informed board members that for the next month until March 15th, a contest to win the #1 position of the Dozen Distinctive Destinations would commence. Dwight Bassett spoke about a local campaign contracted for 6 months with Chapel Hill Magazine. The theme is “Open to Business” and “Open for business”. Also sending a post card mailing, quarterly, to all new corporations within the Triangle region representing Chapel Hill markets. Laura Morgan announced the football schedule was out and there are 7 home football games this season. She also reported that Chancellor Thorp is part of the NACIE committee and that committee will hold a public forum here in Chapel Hill on March 15th (first time out of Washington). Also announcing a gift from the Blackstone Group, funding Blackstone Master Entreprenuer, to stimulate. A consortium with State Central and Duke and Council for Entreprenuerial development. VB will offer trolley tour. ADJOURNMENT With no other business to discuss, Dave Gephart requested a motion to adjourn the meeting, Lee Pavao so moved with Rick Strunk seconding. Meeting was adjourned at 9:29 a.m. _______________________________ _________________________________ Minutes Drafted by: Minutes Accepted by: Laurie Paolicelli, Executive Director Dave Gephart, Chairman ________________________________ _________________________________ Date Date
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