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County says ‘no’ to tourism funding

By Staff | Apr 11, 2010

Shelly Greimann

Faribault County commissioners may understand tourism’s economic impact to the state and local area, but they aren’t willing to spend a little money to reap some of the benefits.

On Tuesday, board chairman Bill Groskreutz broke a 2-2 tie and voted against contributing $500 to the Southern Minnesota Tourism Association (SMTA).

It’s the second straight year county officials have chosen not to fund the travel group.

“I’m disappointed and it’s sad we can’t advertise some of the things we have here. It’s not a lot of money to get a bang for your buck,” says Shelly Greimann, Blue Earth Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Before the vote was taken, Greimann made her pitch to restore the funding.

She says for every $1 invested in tourism marketing, the result is $53 in gross sales.

“It actually equals ag in terms of the dollars it brings in. It is something to pay attention to,” she told the commissioners.

In Faribault County, the travel industry employed 373 people and generated $11 million in gross sales two years ago.

The Green Giant statue, says Greimann, pulls in thousands of visitors off the interstate each year.

A handout to commissioners listed the economic benefits of tourism, such as travelers spending an average of more than $33 million a day in the state.

In addition, participation in the association provides educational seminars to assist in countywide tourism training efforts.

Greimann, who has been the county’s tourism representative for the past 12 years, says the association has helped with:

• an advertisement in USA Weekend;

• guides printed and handed out at all travel centers as people leave and enter the state;

• obtaining grants for tourism advertising;

• and getting brochures placed in the Mall of America.

Commissioner Butch Erichsrud made a motion, which was seconded by Commissioner John Roper, to give SMTA $500.

That sparked discussion and it was mainly Commissioner Tom Loveall who spoke against the proposal.

“I won’t vote for it. We just got done cutting it last year. I know it’s a relatively small amount, but it all adds up,” he says. “We went through this process and I’m not backtracking off it now. I’m toeing the line.”

Greimann asked the commissioners if support of tourism is important to them.

She says not being a member of the tourism association may mean other areas in the county will not get promoted.

Groskreutz says cities in the county could be asked for financial support.

“I don’t think they have the money,” she says. “The cities are like you, they’re cutting too.”

Loveall says city, county and national elected officials will have to make tough decisions regarding spending tax dollars.

“My priorities are public safety, infrastructure and law and order,” he says. “This is a down priority, to tell you the truth.”