TDC helping support Havana Day

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Billy Dean will perform

By Pat Faherty

The Gadsden County Tourism Development Council will give $2,000 to the Havana Day Festival to help with advertising.
According to event representative Matt Thro, they are trying to make it a much larger event. This year it will feature country music star and Quincy native Billy Dean.
The event is set for May 7 in downtown Havana.
At its April 18 meeting, the TDC also discussed its budget, billboards, grant program, its public relations firm and hiring a part-time coordinator.
The TDC is funded by the tourism (bed) tax collected in county hotels, motels and campgrounds. It is currently over budget in grants and administrative costs, but does have an estimated $213,000 in reserve. Though there is a concern the TDC may not be getting all the tax revenue it is due.
"How do we measure how well we are doing on the collection of tourism taxes?" asked council member Gene Morgan. "It is something worth looking into."
The TDC budget covers marketing, infrastructure, administrative expenses and grants.
The marketing program includes billboards, a website underdevelopment, promotional materials and an ongoing public relations campaign.
For the next fiscal year, the TDC expects to have $4,000 to $6,000 available for grants for special events. The TDC can fund an event for up to 50 percent of its costs with a $1,000 maximum. However, the TDC emphasized that grant funded events must follow state criteria for producing "bed nights," which have to be documented.
Council member Andy Gay wants the TDC to evaluate its grant criteria, expected to be discussed at the next meeting.
He also mentioned that Gadsden is competing with other TDCs that are benefiting from BP oil spill money. Bay County for example is expected to receive $2.6 million to replace lost bed tax revenue (See related story).
The council continued its debate on the billboard program. The TDC has been paying $800 a month for four billboards to promote Gadsden County. But several members expressed concerns on the locations and effectiveness of the signs.
The council voted to drop the current billboard program. However, it will move forward with at least two new billboards in selected locations, most likely on Interstate 10 outside the county with the advice of Ron Sachs Communications, its public relations firm.