Davenport wants to change funding model for tourism

Davenport wants to change funding model for tourism

Davenport city officials want a new funding model with the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, or QCCVB, that they say would increase transparency and accountability as well as more collaboration.

At a meeting Thursday with the QCCVB board and staff, Mayor Frank Klipsch and Brandon Wright, assistant city administrator and chief financial officer, outlined the city’s current financial support not only of the bureau, but tourism, in general. 

“There have been a lot of discussions about what we are doing, should be doing and could be doing” related to the QCCVB, Klipsch said.

According to Wright, Davenport is investing $1.46 million this year in tourism-related expenses including its support of the QCCVB and the city-owned RiverCenter and Adler Theatre. The total is up from $1.33 million last year.

Meanwhile, the city’s direct contribution to the QCCVB is $375,000 this year, which is down from $400,000 last year and nearly $100,000 lower than fiscal 2013.

“Our position is that the existing funding model needs to change,” Wright told the group gathered at Stoney Creek Hotel, Moline.

Wright said the city is aware that the hotel/motel tax it puts into the QCCVB is lower percentage-wise than other communities across Iowa. But it is not a list the city wants to top, he added. “Putting more money into the QCCVB itself just isn’t the answer.”

According to Wright, the Davenport City Council wants more transparency and accountability in the funds its spends.

“Tax dollars don’t follow who collects them,” he said, pointing to the road/fuel tax collected by gasoline stations as an example.

City leaders indicated they want to develop a professional service agreement with the QCCVB that would more clearly define the role of the QCCVB and the city as well as the expectations of both.

But QCCVB staff suggested that tourism is not recognized for the economic development driver that it is.

“Tourism is a fluffy word, but really it is economic development,” said Molly Carlson, the QCCVB’s vice president-destination and development. “It’s more than just events. In other cities, that have gotten it (the economic development factor), they are knocking it out of the park.”

The issue was returned to the table after a Quad-City Times’ Big Story last month looked into the impact of tourism on the Quad-Cities and its funding challenges.

Wright said the city would consider adding resources — along with other partners — to bid fund packages to bring large events to the Quad-Cities. “This, I think, has the potential to add more money to the bid fund,” he said.

A bid fee is the amount organizers charge to bring a convention, sports competition or other event to any given locale. Many are paid in cash by the bureau, event sponsors and local hospitality partners, including hotels, restaurants and attractions. Others are a combination of cash and in-kind services.

Joe Taylor, the QCCVB’s president and CEO, said a new funding agreement cannot be limited to Davenport. “To me, having a single agreement is what we need so every investor has the same agreement saying the ‘bureau will do this, the investor will do that.'”

Klipsch said measurables and achievements are being discussed with all the city’s outside agencies as the city “moves away from the blank check” program. “Together, we’ll be able to tell our citizens this is what we’re spending money on,” he said.

In addition to the CVB, the city also provides support for the Putnam Museum, Figge Art Museum, CASI, Quad-City Air Show and Quad-Cities First, the economic development arm of the Quad-Cities Chamber. It also supports Modern Woodmen Park.

“We’re all in,” Klipsch said of the city’s support of tourism. “We want to make this work.”