Funds Allocated for Washtenaw “Pure Michigan”

As part of funding for a Pure Michigan campaign focused on the Ann Arbor area, the Washtenaw County board of commissioners approved allocating $200,000 to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), out of revenues from the county’s accommodations tax. The vote was taken at the board’s Feb. 15, 2012 meeting.

According to a staff memo, the Michigan Economic Development Corp. (MEDC) is developing a Pure Michigan pilot program, entitled “Sense of Place,” to combine support for tourism and economic development. The Ann Arbor/Washtenaw County area has been chosen as the first region to be featured as a partner in this program.

The campaign will feature a $1 million national TV ad campaign. Ann Arbor SPARK, the local economic development agency, is contributing $70,000 toward the campaign, with $200,000 coming from the county, $230,000 from the local CVBs, and $500,000 from the MEDC. Other elements of the pilot program include an Ann Arbor area episode of HGTV’s “Househunters” program, and national digital ad campaign directing people to Ann Arbor SPARK’s website.

The $200,000 from the county will be paid from the accommodations ordinance administrative fund – an early payment that the county otherwise anticipated making in May of 2013. More than $350,000 is currently in that administrative fund, according to the county.

At the board’s Sept. 21, 2011 meeting, commissioners had voted to amend the contract for the distribution of the county’s accommodations tax. The county collects a 5% excise tax from hotels, motels, and bed & breakfasts, which is then distributed to the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti convention & visitors bureaus and used to promote tourism and convention business. The contract calls for the county to retain 10% of that tax to defray the cost of collection and enforcement. (Until 2009, the county had only retained 5% for this purpose.) The remaining funds are split, with 75% going to the Ann Arbor Convention & Visitors Bureau, and 25% going to the Ypsilanti Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The contract amendment made in September 2011 addressed the process for distributing excess funds that might accumulate from the county’s 10%, if that amount exceeds the expenses required to administer and enforce compliance with the tax. Beginning in May 2013, the county will continue to retain 10% of the tax proceeds, plus 10% of any remaining fund balance. If additional funds accumulate in the fund balance, they are to be returned proportionally to the two convention & visitors bureaus – 75% to Ann Arbor, and 25% to Ypsilanti.

This brief was filed from the boardroom of the county administration building, 220 N. Main St. in Ann Arbor. A more detailed report will follow: [link]