By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
---- — The Howard County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau is hoping to increase the 2014 budget by 25 percent, which includes $50,000 for a feasibility study for a new hotel and convention center complex.
Chris Hamm, CEO of the Greater Kokomo Economic Development Alliance, presented the proposed budget to the Howard County Council on Tuesday.
The budget request is for an increase of $107,087 to $528,053 for the year. Hamm said the innkeeper’s tax is expected to generate an estimated $600,000 next year.
The estimated revenue figure is based on the innkeeper’s tax remaining at 5 percent. It is scheduled to be reduced to 4 percent starting on Jan. 1 as a result of the Kokomo Event Center bonds being paid off.
He said $50,000 included for contract services to for the feasibility study to determine the best location for a convention center complex and whether or not it would be successful in attracting conferences to Kokomo.
Development Concepts Inc. recently completed a master plan for downtown Kokomo which looked at relocating the Automotive Heritage Museum, residential housing units in the downtown, event planning and branding to make the downtown a regional destination.
“The first study didn’t provide a detailed analysis,” Hamm said. “Additional hotel capacity and space will increase revenues for the tourism bureau.”
Hamm said currently there are 850 rooms in ten hotels in Kokomo. He said there is strong rental of rooms from Sunday through Thursday through business travelers.
“Howard County is the polar opposite of other communities,” he said when it comes to overnight stays. “This will give Howard County an opportunity on weekends.”
In 2012 a total of 7,900 overnight stays was secured through the CVB at an estimated benefit to the community of $1.4 million.
The proposed budget contains $231,000 for advertising, an increase over the $185,000 budgeted for 2013. It includes $35,000 to the auto museum, $35,000 for the Tourism Grant Program, $20,000 to print the Visitor’s Guide, $20,000 for trade publications and $35,000 for the sports committee to solicit events in Kokomo.
Hamm said there is $10,000 in the budget for signage along the Kokomo Corridor.
“It’s critically important to get travelers to visit Kokomo,” he said.
There is a three percent raise budgeted for employees for a payroll cost in 2014 of $130,600 and a 35 percent increase in expenses for employee benefits.