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3 entities get bulk of V&P funds
MONROE - Three local, tourism-promoting entities will get the lion's share of the Monroe Visitor and Promotion Board funding in 2014.

Members of the board Wednesday, Jan. 15, unanimously pre-approved $44,000 of its anticipated annual revenues, estimated at about $60,000 or more, for the Monroe Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Monroe and Green County Department of Tourism. Monroe Chamber and GC Tourism each requested $11,000, while Main Street requested $22,000.

The remaining funds will be used for requests from individual organizations.

Squeezed out of the funding distribution proposed last month is Monroe radio station, WEKZ, which was expected to receive $10,000. Board members hesitated to approve the proposal as presented by the board chairman and city mayor, Bill Ross.

"I think the biggest bang for our buck is these three here," said board member Tom Miller.

After the board's extended discussion with Monroe Chamber Executive Director Pam Christopher, Main Street Board member JoAnne Lueunburger and Green County Tourism Director Noreen Rueckert, Mayor Bill Ross agreed. Pre-approving them at the beginning of the year, he said, will allow each to have the funds "they can count on."

Each of the big three is asking for about $1,000 more than they spent in 2013, said Christopher. The Chamber was pre-approved for almost $25,000 last year but, after learning the 2013 funding was going into the red, stopped spending at $10,000. Christopher informed the V&P Board last month that the remaining approved funds were being returned.

Christopher said Thursday that the three entities work together on a daily basis to promote the city throughout the year, not just for individual events, and they presented a brief overview of the advertising initiatives planned for the year.

"Collectively, we work well together and are a "good buy' for the city, because we hit all the media (formats)," Christopher said.

The Chamber, which acts as the city's tourism office, will continue its print ads in Northwest Quarterly, a regional and Chicago-area publication that markets places to visit in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin regions. The Chamber will also continue its program of placing touch screens in hotels to provide current visitors with local information.

Main Street Monroe will continue advertising through Charter TV; increase its use of highway billboards in Dane and Sauk counties; and add Madison and Rockford TV stations advertising.

Green County Tourism will increase television advertising in Chicago and add the Madison market, as well as continue print ads in specialty publications, such as biking and culinary. It will also continue in targeted areas with radio and outdoor/billboard advertising. Rueckert is also preparing a state grant to apply for continued promotion of the county's destination branding.

But Big Radio is not entirely left out in the cold this year. Christopher said the three organizations use WEKZ a lot, as one of their local advertising outlets. According to Christopher, Main Street spent about $7,000 with Big Radio in 2013, and the Chamber spent another $1,500. These expenditures are not eligible for reimbursement through their Visitor and Promotion funding.

To qualify for V&P funding, an organization's advertising must reach beyond a 60-mile radius of the city and must have a high probability of generating an overnight stay at a city hotel or motel. The board reimburses only a portion of these advertising expenses incurred by organizations. The city's room tax at hotels and motels generate future available funds.

The board is looking more closely this year than in past years at requests and submitted expenses to determine which advertisement efforts truly qualify for reimbursement and which events are generating a good return on the investment.

The number of people enticed by advertising efforts to stay overnight in city hotels and motels is difficult to determine. Richard Thoman, a board member and owner of a Monroe hotel, usually can tell the board which weekends were busy at his business, but even he says it's hard to know whether the guests are in town for a specific, advertised event or for some other reason, such as a wedding.

The board will meet next month to review new requests totaling about $9,500, which were submitted in late 2013 but held until the fund was in the black again. The fund has about $14,000 in cash available from 2013.