BY TOM BUSSELBERG
FARMINGTON – Bids from marketing firms will be sought shortly to conduct a study to promote Davis County.
“We understand there’s a need for Convention & Visitor Bureau (CVB)-type services in marketing the county, its venues and assets,” said County Commissioner Bret Millburn Tuesday morning.
A request for bids will be sent out shortly for a study to be conducted and results received, hopefully by January, he said.
“We want to get a handle on what Davis County is, what are our strengths. What should our focus be,” Millburn said.
A professional, outside study could add to the knowledge county officials already have, he said.
Study results will aid the county in “strategizing our steps. From there, we’ve got some ideas of how to structure things going forward.”
Announcement of the study comes a week after county commissioners didn’t renew their contract with the current Davis Area Convention & Visitors Bureau.
That agency has operated under the direction of the county, with several county officials on its board. It receives about $850,000 in county funds.
An independent audit commissioned by the county found parts of the CVB’s contract with the county weren’t being met having to do with return-on-investment, County Commissioner Louenda Downs said.
“We are responsible to the taxpayers,” she said.
“There’s been no accusation of anything unlawful, or of misuse of funds,” Downs emphasized.
“We needed to rethink, redo, and that’s what we’re doing. We’re making sure we know what we need to market, and also make sure we are marketing our existing venues. That’s really a significant piece,” she said.
“I think we’ve determined we can accomplish more than we’ve currently been accomplishing for less,” Millburn said.
County officials are looking at possibly spending $500,000 to accomplish that, he said.
“We see value in having some sort of those type of services. We want to make sure we give it what it deserves,” Millburn said.
In the meantime, Sen. Todd Weiler, a CVB board member, has been asked to head a transition team, said Kent Sulser, Davis County Director of Community & Economic Development.
“We’re out visiting with the general managers of all the hotels, the (South Davis Recreation) ice sheet, Farmington Station,” and other venues, he said.
That includes the Davis Conference Center, Legacy Events Center, Antelope Island, Station Park, “all the stakeholders,” Sulser said.
“Obviously, we’re really, really disappointed,” said Rick Hartle, chair of the existing CVB board. “We understand the county had some expectations for the organization and we were not meeting all of them.
“Barbara (Riddle, CVB CEO) and her team, I think they’ve done a fantastic job under some very difficult circumstances,” he said.
He praised the county for having foresight to build a conference center in conjunction with the Hilton Garden Inn, a model he believes other counties more and more will follow.
Hiring Western States Lodging, a private firm, to handle management and operation was also praised by Hartle.
He said one challenge was the relationship between the CVB and Conference Center sales staff, “trying to find ways to be successful and work together.”
“The CVB has been able to accomplish some good things,” Hartle said. “It has been a great part in raising awareness of the county (and all its amenities) in an ever-tougher marketplace.”
The audit’s focus was more narrow, focusing on bookings for the conference center and Legacy Events Center, he said.