Council hires marketing firm

By David Hotle, The JOURNAL


With revenues from the new Washington hotel/motel tax due in June, the Washington City Council approved a recommendation from the Fund Administration Committee to hire a marketing firm to determine the best way to use proceeds from the tax to benefit Washington. During the regular meeting Tuesday evening, the council hired Running Robots of Iowa City to help market Washington with the revenues from the tax. The goal is to use the funds to help bring new people to Washington to visit or to live.

?Because this is a city board that oversees this, I asked them to make it between the firm and the city,? Washington City Administrator Brent Hinson said of the agreement between the city and the firm.

Council member Millie Youngquist, also a member of the committee, said the group seemed to be the best fit for the city to use. Council member Steve Gault, also a committee member, said he was impressed with the firm?s use of the internet and social media, but said that because many people in Washington don?t have social media and fliers would need to be used. The Washington Chamber of Commerce has offered to make a $5,000 down payment to retain the firm to be reimbursed when the city gets the first funds from the tax in June. The firm is charging $38,000 for services that will last through December 2020. The cost includes the initial setup costs and operating cost of a variety of marketing strategies.

Hinson said that area lodging establishments have been collecting taxes. The first quarter ended on March 31, and the businesses will have 30 days to submit their taxes to the state. After that, the state has 45 days to give the money to the city. Revenues from the tax, which are projected to be about $30,000 to $40,000 annually, are state-mandated to be used to promote the area. It can be used for tourism, community improvement or promotion.

Hinson said the goal is to make sure the money is spent in the most effective way possible to promote Washington. He said this involves both external and internal promotion. He said the committee had discussed the situation and determined that it could start giving out money without a plan or it could develop a plan with a consultant to ensure the city got the most benefit for the money being spent.

On Aug. 1, 2017, Washington voters approved implementing the hotel/motel tax. Collections of the tax began on Jan. 1. This was the third time the issue had come up for a vote in Washington. The previous two times, the measure had failed, with the most recent vote being in 2009 and 67 percent of the voters opposing the measure.