I’ve been trying to grasp the nature of the Northfield Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), starting with my blog post in early April which included some of my whining about the Northfield Area Chamber of Commerce, followed by our podcast a few weeks later with new Chamber Board member Mary Rossing.
At last night’s City Council meeting, City of Northfield Finance Director Kathleen ‘Mac’ McBride (left photo) gave a brief overview of the legal and financial structure of the CVB. Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kathy Feldbrugge followed with 20-minute speech to the Council.
I spoke at open mic, followed by former City Councilor Dave DeLong.
Click play to listen. 30 minutes, 45 sec. Or drag the slidebar to these minute-markers:
0-1:15 – Kathleen McBride
1:15-21:00 – Kathy Feldbrugge
21:00-26:15 – Q&A with Council (Pokorney, Davis, Vohs, Lansing)
26:15-30:15- Griff Wigley
30:15-30:45 – Dave DeLong
Here are my photos of some relevant CVB documents. Click to enlarge.
My laundry list of complaints:
- The Chamber’s web site has virtually no information about the CVB as an entity, nor does the City’s website, other than the municipal code. No minutes, no financials, no year-ends.
- Kathy offered to verbally explain the financial statements but would not give me paper or PDF versions. I got paper versions from Mac. I understand that the Chamber is a private non-profit and need not share its financials with me. But the CVB exists at the discretion of the City so its financials should be readily available.
- Why does the CVB have $150-175,000 in unspent money? With a budget of $80-90,000 per year, how have they accumulated that much?
- Why is there $120-133K of money in a savings account, presumably earning a paltry interest rate?
- Why are none of the 2008 CVB goals actually measurable goals? They’re all just activity statements, eg, “respond to… coordinate… support… provide” etc. The U of MN has a tourism center and on this Q&A page are several suggestions about tourism accountability.
- Kathy said she doesn’t have traffic stats for the CVB’s tourism website, VisitingNorthfield.com. But any web host can give basic traffic stats, so they should have 2.5 years of stats to share. Google Analytics, a sophisticated web traffic analysis tool, is free, and would take the Chamber’s webmaster 30 minutes to install.
- Other than adding info on new businesses that serve tourists, VisitingNorthfield.com has not changed since it was created in October of 2005. (See the Internet Wayback Machine’s capture of the site.) Yet there was $800 of web/internet-related expenses in 2007. Web hosting should cost no more than $7/month for a brochure site like that. And Chamber staff should be doing the content updating.
- Kathy stressed how much the CVB collaborates. Why not collaborate with By All Means Graphics and embed the monthly Northfield Entertainment Guide into the VisitingNorthfield.com site? It’s far and away the best tool available for promoting Northfield tourism yet there’s not even a link to it from the links page. Why not collaborate with Northfield.org and put their RSS events feed on the site?
- It seems a bad idea to have three current/former Chamber board members on the CVB board, plus Kathy. How can feet be held to the fire with that arrangement?
- There is not one reference to the CVB in the new 2008 Visitors Guide. It’s 100% branded as a Chamber booklet:
- Kathy’s 20-minute speech to the Council tonight was exactly that, a speech, not a presentation. No charts, no graphs, no visuals, no PowerPoint slides, no video. It was a huge missed opportunity to generate some excitement about CVB activities. Instead, there were lots of droopy eyes.
Former City Councilor David DeLong wanted to know when the agreement between the City and the Chamber for CVB services was up for renewal. I would, too. It seems to me that the City might get a lot more bang for the tourism dollar if the Chamber knew it had to compete with other local non-profits to deliver tourism-related services. I don’t think we’re being well-served by this never-ending, 20-year-long sweetheart deal with the Chamber.