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Timing is right to try tourism-chamber partnership, mayor says

Jamestown Tourism Board of Directors recently approved a partnership between Jamestown Tourism and the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.

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Emily Bivens, Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce executive director, will be the executive director who will manage both the chamber and Jamestown Tourism.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun file photo
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JAMESTOWN – The timing is right and makes sense to try a shared resources model between the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce and Jamestown Tourism, according to Mayor Dwaine Heinrich.

Jamestown Tourism Executive Director Searle Swedlund’s last official day in Jamestown is Friday, Sept. 9. With chamber Executive Director Emily Bivens’ experience working in the Jamestown Tourism office, now is the time to try the partnership, Heinrich said.

The Jamestown Tourism Board of Directors unanimously approved on Monday, Aug. 29, a partnership between Jamestown Tourism and the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce.

With the shared resources model, the cost and duties of the executive director and marketing positions will be shared between the chamber and Jamestown Tourism. Jamestown Tourism would reimburse the chamber for the expenses associated with the two shared positions.

It is difficult for each entity to afford its own marketing person, but together each can also share that position, Heinrich said.

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“It probably isn’t a position (marketing position) that either agency can justify having a full-time person for,” he said.

He said the shared resources model between a chamber and tourism office is a model that other communities in the state use.

Swedlund said the partnership is not a merging of the two entities. He said the chamber and Jamestown Tourism will keep its own identities.

“We are being more efficient. We are saving money,” he said. “We are leveraging the nature of what our community has in terms of dollars and cents to do the work that they need.”

Swedlund said the common denominator in the external messaging of both agencies is the “play” piece. The message of the chamber is that Jamestown is a “great place to work and play.”

“Our (Jamestown Tourism) message is a great place to visit and play,” he said.

Bivens will be the executive director who will manage the chamber and Jamestown Tourism.

Jamestown Tourism will still have two staff members, one for marketing – a shared position with the chamber – and the other for sites and working with all tourism sites.

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The partnership also allows Jamestown Tourism to increase salaries and offers benefits to its employees.

“Because we are two people, we (Jamestown Tourism) can’t get benefits,” Swedlund said. “We can’t get anything for benefits but they have their two employees plus their DMV (North Dakota Department of Motor Vehicles) employees. So that is big enough where they have things where we don’t so it just makes sense to add on to that.”

Jamestown Tourism plans to request more funds from the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. to be used for marketing funds, which if approved would increase the revenue from JSDC from $75,000 a year to $125,000 per year. A majority of the $75,000 each year went toward event marketing in the form of grants.

Swedlund said no new money is coming for the chamber. The biggest changes are the shared resources of the executive director and marketing positions.

Swedlund said the extra funds from JSDC will be used for the marketing position and for marketing and advertising. He said the request for funds from the JSDC is all about timing.

“If we are going to really focus in on this marketing and messaging, we can’t just have somebody in a corner without any resources to do work,” he said. “We got to give them tools to be effective in that role.”

Swedlund said Jamestown Tourism has talked with its event partners about its grant structure and how different it might be.

“It might not even exist,” he said. “We talked to a lot of our event partners in that context, not all of them but a lot of them, and offered to many of them we will have better tools in general to support them because they are volunteers.”

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With the shared resources model, both entities will have separate boards. Jamestown Tourism will retain a five- to nine-member board, while the chamber retains a nine- to 11-member board. An executive committee with two members from each group will also be formed.

Swedlund said an enterprise agreement with the city of Jamestown states the Jamestown Tourism Board of Directors makes sure its agency is being transparent with its finances and follows open records and open meetings laws.

“Nothing changes,” he said.

Bivens said neither entity is dropping its 501(c)6 status, and both entities will still carry out their business.

Jamestown Tourism is a publicly-funded entity and receives funds from hospitality taxes and the Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. In 2022, Jamestown Tourism received $336,000 in hospitality taxes and $75,000 from the JSDC.

Jamestown Tourism’s revenues in 2012 were more than $509,000, about $405,000 in 2019 and $455,340 in 2022. Expenditures were about $449,000 in 2012, $398,000 in 2019 and about $433,000 for 2012. With a partnership with the chamber, the revenues would increase to $526,000 with expenditures at $495,000, Swedlund said.

The chamber receives its revenue from membership fees, the North Dakota Department of Motor Vehicles fees and committees and events. In 2022, the chamber received $135,000 from memberships, $225,500 from DMV fees and $60,000 from committees and events.

Masaki Ova joined The Jamestown Sun in August 2021 as a reporter. He grew up on a farm near Pingree, N.D. He majored in communications at the University of Jamestown, N.D.
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