Tourism advertising has been tabled for a third time by the Pulaski County Commissioners. The issue appeared to be put to rest at their last meeting, when they opted not to act on the Community Development Commission’s proposal to run advertising on Comcast cable systems in the Chicago area. However, the topic was brought back to the commissioners Monday by CDC Executive Director Nathan Origer, only to have it tabled once again.
While he encouraged the commissioners to reconsider the original proposal – which would cost just over $22,000 – he also presented two cheaper options. One would reduce the price to about $17,000, but would still use both cable television and online advertising. The other option would cut out the television component entirely and advertise online only, for a cost of $4,250. The CDC has about $45,000 budgeted for marketing.
During Monday’s meeting, Origer compared the advertising effort to the county’s agriculture industry. “Doing this, this advertising, this is our spring planting,” he explained. “We’ve got our raw material here. This is the seeds we’re planting. The website, other forms of marketing that we’re hoping that we’re hoping they will reach by seeing the TV commercials, that’s our fertilizer. And then, knock on wood, people coming here, that’s our harvest. It’ll come earlier then September, October, November, but that is our harvest.”
He pointed out that the county’s tourism push is part of a strategy to attract new residents. “We have great assets,” he explained. “We just need people to know that our assets exist. And you know, like I said, it may only be one out of 100; every person who comes to this county and has an income and lives here, that’s one step closer to being able to lower our tax rate without cutting any of our budgets, which we all know from countless budget session are tight as it is. If you can’t lower the income tax rate by raising property tax rates, if you can’t do it without cutting government, the best way to do it is to have more people paying that same amount.”
However, Commissioner Jerry Locke voiced skepticism about the tourism effort. He said he’s gotten numerous complaints about the current visitors, saying they don’t seem to have as much respect for private property as Pulaski County residents. After Locke declined to offer more details about these complaints, Origer then suggested that Locke schedule a private appointment. “You have been in office for two-plus months,” Origer said. “You have yet to step foot in my office since Election Day. I have asked repeatedly. You go to other departments. You do not come to my department.” Locke took issue with that complaint, saying he’s stopped by many times, but no one was in the office.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Kenny Becker moved to proceed with the least expensive, online-only option. “TV commercials I am not in favor of,” he said. “But I tell you what, I was in Indianapolis Tuesday. I had to take a fella down there to get operated on; I sat in the waiting room for five hours. Everybody that sat in that room was on their phone looking up something. That’s where I think you’re going to get most of your stuff.”
But Locke requested to table the discussion until their next meeting, due to the absence of Commissioner Bud Krohn Jr. Monday. At that point, Origer stormed out of the meeting room, complaining that the commissioners were “not interested in making Pulaski County great again,” a reference to Locke’s Donald Trump-inspired campaign slogan.
The CDC is hoping for a decision soon, in order to start advertising before potential visitors begin planning their summer trips.