Macomb City Administrator Dean Torreson is recommending the city end its contract with the Macomb Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and run tourism efforts through City Hall.
“With this ‘in-house’ approach the City can save an estimated $48,000 annually that can be put toward the physical development of tourist attractions in Macomb,” wrote Torreson in a position paper dated June 29, 2015.
Torreson said the MACVB contract calls for the organization to be paid $184,146. He wrote the city could handle the responsibilities for $135,834.
The document also indicates Torreson is frustrated with the MACVB and its “arms-length” approach to events. In an interview with Tri States Public Radio, Torreson said, “I just think that there’s been for many years a dearth of ideas and aggressiveness.”
He said a contract extension was presented to the MACVB several months ago but the group never acted on it. So he decided now would be a good time to end the relationship and make City Hall responsible for tourism – something he said he’s been thinking about for years.
“I think it’s time to bring up the possibility of a change,” Torreson said. And he pointed out aldermen came close to defunding the MACVB in 2010 before deciding to stick with the group.
Torreson’s position paper recommended merging tourism and convention promotion duties with the city’s Downtown Development office, which was recently brought into City Hall after many years of partnering with the Macomb Are Chamber of Commerce.
Torreson said Downtown Development Director Andrea Keene, with the help of an administrative assistant, could easily handle the added responsibilities.
The proposal was reviewed by the city council’s Community Development Committee on July 1. Aldermen Clay Hinderliter, Mike Wayland, and Tom Koch serve on the committee and voted unanimously to recommend the change to the full city council.
Torreson said the full city council will discuss the change during its July 13 Committee of the Whole meeting and could vote on it the following week. He said if it’s approved, the city would assume the duties around September 1.
Push Back to the Plan
A larger than usual crowd showed up for the Community Development Committee meeting, causing it to be moved to a larger room. About half-a-dozen people spoke in support of the work being done by the MACVB.
Rachel Lenz of the Macomb Park District said the MACVB’s efforts had a “huge impact” on special events hosted by the park district. Heather McMeekan, who is organizing a kite festival, said the MACVB is doing an “excellent job” and she praised Executive Director Nikki Gray’s use of social media to promote events.
Gray said she was “definitely surprised” by the criticism of the MACVB’s performance. She felt the group worked well with others to promote new events and those already in place.
“My intention is to make sure that the truth is put out there about our involvement and the initiatives that we’ve had that have been very strong and very behind the scenes,” Gray said.
“It’s not our job to be in the limelight. It’s our job to sit back and see what awesome things are happening and assist in making that happen.”
Dave Dorsett, President of the MACVB Board, said he talked to an attorney about the matter. And he promised the MACVB won’t go down without a fight.
“I will always fight for this area and this is just another one of those fights,” Dorsett said.
He said it’s too much responsibility for one person to be in charge of both downtown development and tourism.