Healdsburg City Council unanimously voted to infuse an extra $50,000 to the chamber of commerce for marketing efforts to the city.
At its Nov. 18 meeting at city hall, the council received a presentation from new chamber CEO Tallia Hart for the Healdsburg Tourism Improvement District (HTID) as well as an overview of general chamber services before awarding the money.
The $50,000 will come out of Measure V funds, which City Manager David Mickaelian said were part of leftover funds and the reserve allocated from the special tax. That part of the Measure V fund totaled $237,152 as of June 30, the end of the fiscal year. This addition will raise the “will not exceed” amount the chamber gets for this campaign to $100,000 and extends the agreement for six months.
One of the main focuses of marketing the city as a destination deals with the perception left after the Kincade Fire.
According to the presentation, the chamber will “infiltrate national media markets and connect local marketing and advertising needs with national media influencers to attract more visitors.”
Mayor David Hagele noted that the chamber, and Hart in particular, were helpful as he suddenly found himself in the national spotlight during the Kincade Fire. He said his first interview went somewhat roughly as he faltered on a question of what the “new normal” was in Healdsburg. Hagele had heard that buzz phrase in relation to PG&E’s power shut-offs, and he responded more to that point.
Hart approached him after, he said, and told him his message wasn’t the best for the town.
After a pep talk, Hagele said he received compliments from locals who saw his other interviews, applauding him for his positive messaging.
“And I had to tell them it wasn’t me. It was this team we have here,” he said.
Chamber members filled the seats during the meeting, many from the lodging and restaurant industries. Though it was said that $50,000 wasn’t a lot to launch an entire marketing campaign, it was noted that several firms had shown interest in chipping in, so long as there was a plan.
“This $50,000 shows we have a plan,” member Alan Baker said, noting that the chamber will be able to leverage much more money as a result.
The council was overall impressed with what the chamber has done so far. The HTID, Councilmember Joe Naujokas said, was a great effort to improve each individual district’s character, which he said improved the individual identity of the city.
The HTID report showed that the chamber has been working on a lodging campaign called Stay Healdsburg, which Hart said was successful. The campaign has 1,000 followers on Instagram and Facebook and the lodging gross revenue has seen a steady uptick each year since the district was formed.
It was also noted that the district gives grants for a wide variety of local events, from the Healdsburg Jazz Festival to the Russian River Race.
Naujokas did ask how other parts of the economy were fairing in the wake of the fire beyond lodging and hospitality. He gave the example of a tire store that may have peripheral losses.
Hart did not have a specific answer for him, saying it was hard for her to generalize but that everyone was impacted.
Councilmember Evelyn Mitchell asked what the state of business was for Healdsburg in general, to which Hart did not have any specific numbers.
Hart did say that she’s heard of many cancelations to hotels as a result of the fire and that work needed to be done quickly to counteract the perception that the city burnt to the ground as news blurbs only showed the destroyed parcels of land.
City council will have its next meeting on Monday, Dec. 2 at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 401 Grove St.