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The proof is in the pillow pudding, but it's political

 


We had a lot of extra pillows being used in the area last weekend.

Against the odds imposed by truly oppressive heat, people streamed into this community continuously to celebrate the Fourth of July at the Grand Coulee Dam Area Chamber of Commerce’s Festival of America. And that’s a lesson for local governments.

That festival was originally conceived as an event with a dual purpose, which it is still supposed to fulfill.

It succeeds on one of those counts, anyway; it shows off our area to folks who wouldn’t discover it otherwise. The chamber runs ads on television to promote the event and the area in order to build the tourism industry, the most obvious economic development possible for a community a long way from any major transportation routes, needing jobs, but still offering the biggest tourist interest in eastern Washington — for those who know it’s here.

The fact that folks were happy to attend the celebration, despite the awful heat, is simply a testament to two factors: First, they place high value on what we have to offer. Second, the chamber is doing a good job of getting the message out that we’re offering it.

The second goal of the festival has been a dismal failure of late. It’s supposed to make the chamber some money. Last year, the chamber lost thousands on the festival due to the changing politics of the region. If new initiatives such as the beer tent didn’t do spectacularly well, the whole festival itself could be in jeopardy.

The money to put it on has in the past come from a tax on tourists, which motels and campgrounds collect on “heads in beds.” This year, much of it came from private funders who didn’t want to see this fabulous marketing tool die for lack of community support.

That private support can come and go, but local governments that collect on heads in beds should do what every other government that collects that tax does, spend it on its lawful use, to promote tourism.

Sitting in a city’s balance sheet year after year, hotel/motel tax funds return next to nothing for cities. But they pay big dividends when they are used properly for their intended purpose. Last weekend proved it.

Scott Hunter

editor and publisher

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