The Roseburg Area Chamber of Commerce may not submit a proposal for the city’s new visitor services contract, according to Debbie Fromdahl, CEO of the chamber.
The Roseburg City Council decided to give notice to the chamber of its plans to end its previous contract on Monday. City councilors say the creation of a new contract has been long overdue because the current one doesn’t include modern standards such as social media guidelines. They also were unsure if the chamber was using the $600,000 contract effectively.
The original contract was created in 1982. The Chamber got the contract for the first time in 2002. The contract has been updated multiple times since it was created, including significant changes in 2006 and 2013, according to Fromdahl.
The chamber will be able to submit a proposal for the new contract after the city releases a request for proposals within the next 30 days.
But Fromdahl said Tuesday the contract isn’t essential for the chamber to operate as much of its revenue comes from business members. She added the Chamber’s Board of Directors hasn’t yet discussed whether it will submit a proposal.
The contract is funded by the city’s hotel/motel tax. City laws require nearly 60 percent of the revenue from that tax go toward promoting tourism. That percentage has increased dramatically since the tax was created in 1982, when 5 percent was for tourism.
Economic development commissions have gradually increased the proportion allocated to tourism during the last three and a half decades, as tourism has become a more important part of the Douglas County economy.
Fromdahl said the chamber has offered previous city councils an easy way to put the hotel/motel tax revenue for tourism to good use because the chamber inherently promotes tourism.
“Even if we don’t have the contract, the chamber is still going to do tourism,” Fromdahl said. “Every chamber, whether they have a contract or not, does tourism. Who do you think people call? When they pick up the phone, they call the Chamber of Commerce.”
She said the removal of the contract would allow the chamber to focus more on supporting the interests of its members without the city overseeing its tourism services.
City Council President Tom Ryan said Tuesday he expects the city will receive several proposals for the contract.
“It’s totally up to the chamber if they don’t want to submit one,” Ryan said.
Roseburg Mayor Larry Rich said he hopes the chamber submits a proposal.
The current five-year contract with the chamber would have lasted until 2022. After the most recent increment was approved in 2017, city officials discussed hiring an independent firm to evaluate whether the chamber was using the contract money effectively.
Ryan said he didn’t support paying $20,000 for the evaluation.
The city has wanted to update the aging contract for years, he said.
“The contract was untenable,” Ryan said. “It’s totally obsolete. There has to be social media stuff in there. Back when this contract was given, there was no such thing.”
City Manager Lance Colley didn’t return The News-Review’s request for comment about what he expects to include in the new contract.
Although social media isn’t part of the current contract, the city has been critical of the chamber not taking the initiative to be active on social media.
City Councilor Andrea Zielinski pointed out in an interview Tuesday that the chamber has recently made an average of one post per month on its Twitter page and Land of Umpqua Facebook page.
“(The chamber) could have been proactive,” Ryan said about the chamber’s social media activity. “We expect whoever gets the contract, whether it’s them or anybody else, to be proactive.”
Fromdahl said part of the reason the chamber hasn’t been active on social media is that the organization has been anticipating the city would change the contract.
“We talked about it at the board level about increasing the social media aspect,” Fromdahl said. “Do we have the opportunity to do that right now today? No, and we don’t because we’re short staffed. And the reason we’re short staffed is that we’ve kind of had this contract issue hanging over our heads for about nine months.”
She said she didn’t want to hire someone to run the chamber’s social media pages if the city had plans to end their contract.
“The last thing I’m going to go out and do is hire somebody and then turn around and let them go,” Fromdahl said.
She isn’t worried about a lapse in promotion and advertising for tourism in the region occurring as a result of the contract with the city ending.
“There isn’t going to be a lapse,” Fromdahl said. “Because we have already signed contracts. We already have a media plan to get us through September.”
The downside of losing the contract, according to Fromdahl, is that the revenue from the city currently funds chamber employees. She said three employees, including a marketer, a visitor information specialist and executive administrator, will not continue at the chamber because of the lack of funding.
“The hard thing, certainly for me as an employer, is that I have people that I am bound and determined to find jobs for,” Fromdahl said. “I’ve already started that process.”
The city will allow organizations to submit proposals for 30 days after it releases the request for proposals. Then the city will take another 30 days to decide who gets the new visitor services contract.