Basalt business marketing efforts will get assessed | AspenTimes.com

Basalt business marketing efforts will get assessed

Two organizations charged with spurring business in Basalt were eligible for $50,000 each in taxpayer funds to help achieve their missions in 2014 and are in line for similar grants when the Town Council approves its budget for 2015 tonight.

But the town government reserved the right to check if the public is getting its money's worth from the Basalt Chamber of Commerce and Basalt Downtown Business Association. Both organizations must submit reports by February that detail how they spent the money in 2014. The funds in 2015 will be allocated in the budget but won't be released unless Town Manager Mike Scanlon endorses the spending for the prior year.

Downtown business owners and operators formed the association in fall 2013 to spur activity after the tough recession years. The town government pledged to provide $4 for every $1 the association raised with a cap of $50,000. The funding was pledged for three years.

The town contributed $37,493.16 to the business association through October, according to Assistant Town Manger Judi Tippetts. The association collected $8,885 primarily through member fees.

"When we first started this organization, we started from nothing," said Cathy Click, a downtown business operator and a member of the association's governing board. She said the association tried a lot of things in its first year and will refine its approach in 2015.

The association spent $21,000, or roughly half of its budget, on marketing, Click said. She estimated that about 60 percent of that amount went to an outside consultant, Shayla Groves, who provided expertise and served as a de facto staff member for the association. Another $4,942 was spent to develop and maintain a Web page.

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The organization spent $7,062 to set up a booth at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Expo the past two falls in an effort to directly reach Colorado residents. The effort had mixed results, Click said, and probably won't be pursued in the future. Another $4,200 was spent on advertising for events such as Moonstruck, a night when businesses stay open to celebrate the full moon. The association also organized the downtown tree-lighting ceremony last weekend.

The organization spent $9,400 on miscellaneous expenses.

Click said the success of the association will depend on "bottom up" participation by the members, which currently number 61. The business owners need to chart the course and carry through with the direction. Click said she feels the money invested by the town has been well-spent by helping generate activity downtown over the past 1½ years.

"The gloom and doom has been overstated," Click said.

The Basalt Chamber Resort Association was given a challenge grant by the town government this year. It had to generate $12,500 in new revenue to receive $50,000. It also had to start a demographics study of Basalt, promote year-round buying from local shops and restaurants and start work on a transportation plan tying the two ends of town together.

The chamber has collected half of the grant so far, in part because of a changing of the guard in leadership positions in August. Robin Waters took over as executive director.

Waters said nearly $20,000 was spent on print, radio and television advertising and tactical use of the Internet and social media. The expense included graphic-design work for print ads.

Another $2,900 was spent on software to help with the demographic study, which will provide information the chamber can use for its economic-development plan, Waters said. Another $6,400 was spent on sponsoring events, such as a golf tournament fundraiser, a play presentation at Lions Park and attending the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Expo.

The chamber had to raise $6,225 to receive the first half of the grant. Waters said she will make a presentation to Scanlon on how the funds were spent to obtain the second $25,000 for 2014.

Waters said she feels the investment of public money pays off for the town in increased sales tax and improvement in the quality of life in Basalt by building a stronger community.

Scanlon said he is witnessing progress by the organizations as they settle into their roles.

"I think they're getting there," he said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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