Northfield’s Convention and Visitors Bureau: What needs to be changed?

In today’s Northfield News – Promoting Northfield’s identity: Convention and Visitors Bureau presents strategic plan

In addition to approving the CVB’s budget at its Feb. 5 meeting, the council said it wants to direct the group to reexamine its bylaws and look at potential options for an increased downtown CVB presence. The council also brought up concerns on how the CVB plans to engage various stakeholders and how to hold the group accountable to those plans.

Visiting Northfield homepageThe article goes on to quote Councilors Jessica Peterson White and Suzie Nakasian, and notes how some councilors question the interconnectedness between the CVB (public website VisitingNorthfield.com) and the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce (NACC):

For example, the group’s policies and procedures currently state that those allowed to participate on the CVB advisory board must be members of the NACC, unless appointed by the mayor and city council. Some council members said that that strong overlap limits who can be on the CVB board, narrowing the pool of potential stakeholders involved.

See pages 3-28 of last night’s Council packet where the CVB was discussed in the work session.

12 comments to  (Including 4 Discussion Threads) Northfield’s Convention and Visitors Bureau: What needs to be changed?

  • 1
    David Ludescher says:

    There is more to the discussion than, “What needs to be changed?”. At the heart of the discussion is whether the city can operate the CVB cheaper and more effectively than the CVB can govern itself. One of the reasons the CVB is cost effective is that it has economies of scale and expertise through the Chamber. Realistically, the Chamber has been underwriting the costs of the CVB for years. Let’s not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.

    Right now, if you want to “play with the CVB”, you have to pay, namely, have a Chamber membership. Only the city gets a free pass on the requirement that you have to have skin in the game.

    The ultimate goal of the CVB is to “put heads on beds”. As a government official I have no interest in issuing edicts to the CVB telling them how to operate their own board. I have neither the time nor the competence to do so.

  • 2
    Griff Wigley says:

    David, has the CVB set annual goals in recent years and reported its performance to its Board and the public? I poked around online and couldn’t find anything.

    • 2.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Griff,

      I think the proper reporting structure is the CVB Board to the Chamber Board, with a review of the annual budget by the City Council. The CVB is not a public entity. If the public wants input, it should seek out a CVB board member.

  • 3
    Jane McWilliams says:

    Griff -- the chart in the packet contains a good recap of council.chamber/CVB discussions and actions during the past several years. Two things prompted council concerns as far back as 2011: delinquent tax collection which required the chamber to submit 2 budgets for 2012, and a sense among some council members that the CVB wasn’t doing a good job of marketing Northfield as a tourist destination. Note, in particular, that Mayor Rossing convened a group of stakeholders in September 2011, facilitated by Tom Clough (a copy of his report was on hand at the meeting Tuesday, but not in the packet) to talk about this. The council eventually approved the more optimistic budget for 2012, with the understanding that the council “does not intend to change the current agreement between the City and the Chamber related to Convention and Visitors Bureau services until December 31″ (from the chart). In the meantime, the staff designed, at the council’s request, a scheme for having the CVB report directly to the council. (You can see this in the January 15 council packet.)

    I had understood that the purpose of the work session this week with the CVB was to run past that group the scheme the staff had drafted. But to the best of my knowledge, no allusion was made to it at the Tuesday meeting. Instead, there was a detailed presentation of the CVB work plan and, as the News reports, and as I mentioned in my LWV blog, the focus of the discussion was on the makeup of the board and qualification for membership. Apparently, the council will take action on the CVB budget at their February 5 meeting.

    • 3.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Jane, Griff, and all

      I didn’t find Clough’s report to be helpful in my decision-making role. (Granted, I have a biased point of view based upon my Chamber membership, and indirect support of the CVB.) There was no mention of the CVB being involved in the development of the plan nor was there any significant mention of the financial realities of marketing on the limited budget of the CVB.

      There was some discussion that people felt shut out of the CVB because non-Chamber members (with the exception of the council appointments) cannot serve on the board. There is a fairly simple solution to that problem -- join the Chamber, and asked to be appointed to the CVB. Short of joining the Chamber, one can always request a CVB board audience, or volunteer to assist the CVB in its daily activities.

      That said, I think the CVB presented a new and aggressive approach to marketing Northfield. I have some personal concerns that the approach is financially unsustainable in the long term. But, the CVB does have a significant cash cushion and has proven itself to be financially responsible.

      It strikes me as odd/ironic/hypocritical that a council that doesn’t want the public involved in the $7.2M safety center is advocating for greater involvement of the public in an $80K CVB budget.

      • 3.1.1
        kiffi summa says:

        David: You said : ” It strikes me as odd/ironic/hypocritical that a council that doesn’t want the public involved in the $7.2M safety center is advocating for greater involvement of the public in an $80K CVB budget.”

        Yeah… that is odd/ironic/hypocritical … but that “public involvement” refrain is just another piece of jargon along with “appreciate”, “moving forward”, “stakeholders” etc., that have become buzzwords which have lost any real meaning.

        If it would have been ‘appreciated’ that we could ‘move forward’ on the Safety Center with the approval of the ‘stakeholders’ , then a way would have been found to hold a referendum on a building that cost 2 Million $$ less, right?

        But that’s a ‘dead horse’ …

        However, one question that I think needs to be answered is the need for the CVB to hold cash reserves of 175K … Why do they need to cache that much money?

      • 3.1.2
        David Ludescher says:

        Kiffi,

        The positive outcome of Suzie’s inquiries into the CVB seems to be a active rather than a reactive approach to marketing and tourism, including using some of the reserves for a broader reach. In my opinion, the CVB has to resist the temptation to appease the City Council and others who have no skin in the game, and needs to make marketing Northfield a shared sacrifice where everyone with an opinion has some real skin in the game.

        On a somewhat related note, it is my hope that Suzie and the other council members will take the same proactive approach to the Safety Center that they have taken to the CVB. After all, the Safety Center is 100 times the “investment” that the CVB is. The Safety Center deserves a much closer look, especially given that the citizens have been cut out of the process.

  • 4
    kiffi summa says:

    another fairly bizarre and inexplainable series of events… I would have to agree mostly with Councilor Ludescher… but what seems to have happened in the past Council is that someone, was it the Mayor ??? got all agitated about the performance of the CVB, and the linkage with the Chamber… was it really a totally separate group ??? or too intertwined with the Chamber ???

    As I recall, there was an RFP, and 2-3 replies, and none of those was selected; instead the CVB had a chance to redefine itself… is that roughly correct, jane?
    but a lot of Council time spent, possibly wastefully…

    I guess my point here is that it was a whole bunch of hoo-ha for no end change; I do think Councilor Ludescher is correct that the Council has little legitimate or functional involvement, beyond encouraging the CVB to do a good job promoting Northfield.

  • 5
    norman butler says:

    What does the CVB do in its pursuit of heads on beds? No, more specifaclly, what did the CVB do, say, last year and the year before etc? Is performance ever stated in plain, even measurable, terms?

    • 5.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Norman,

      That’s a fair question. A more fundamental question for me, as a council member, is who should be in charge of the CVB’s function of distributing the tax dollars collected by the lodging businesses. Is this a city function, a business function, a business lodging function, a resident function?

  • 6
    norman butler says:

    David. And how much is that money..$100,000? And if these are tax dollars then is not the CVB a community owned & accountable entity? It seems to me that these tax dollars should flow through City Hall perhaps bouncing in and out of the EDA.
    Also my understanding of the CVB/Chamber relationship is that the CVB income enables the Chamber to cash flow its operation. And that it was invented to accomplish this very neceassry task (at the time). Am I mistaken in this?

    • 6.1
      David Ludescher says:

      Norman,

      The CVB is an odd creature; it has neither a mother nor a father. While the City is permitted to create the CVB through taxation, the tax dollars are dedicated monies. Ultimately, the CVB itself has to control where and how the monies are spent.

      It seems to be a common perception that the Chamber is cash flowing its operation out of the CVB budget. I think a closer analysis would reveal that the CVB is getting a very low contractor rate from the Chamber, and that my Chamber dues are helping the CVB keep down its administrative costs.

      I think the worst solution is to have the City take over the CVB operations. That would result in meddlers and incompetents, like me, trying to run the CVB from afar. And, we would have to do it with city staff.

      As a council member, I am content to keep my distance and let the CVB board and the Chamber come to some understanding of proper allocation of costs and power.

Subscribe and Follow LoGro

Subscribe to the blog via email (daily) Subscribe to the blog via RSS Subscribe to the Locally Grown e-newsletter (weekly)
Follow us on Twitter Visit our Picasaweb photo gallery Like us on Facebook

Blog Monthly Archives

Blog Category Archives