The Tooele County Fair and the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce are the final recipients of tourism tax grants for 2019.
The Tooele County Commission approved tourism tax grants totaling $40,000 for the fair and $21,000 for the chamber of commerce during its Tuesday night meeting at the Tooele County Building.
These are the last of the grant applicants for 2019, according to Carrie Cushman, Tooele County Tourism Tax Advisory Board chairperson.
The advisory board recommended the approval of the grants, according to Cushman.
Cushman explained that the grant for fair included $25,000 over the next three years for the purchase of outdoor bleachers, up to $5,000 per year starting in 2020 for prize money for the demolition derby, and up to $10,000 for post-performance reimbursement for out-of-county advertising.
The additional bleachers and prize money for the fair will allow the demolition derby to be expanded to a two-day event. The advisory board wanted to require that the demolition derby be expanded to a two-day event starting in 2019, according to Cushman’s report.
“The demolition derby is the largest and most profitable event at the fair,” Cushman said. “It brings in the most tourists, which is the purpose of the tourism tax. The expansion will increase business at local hotels and restaurants.”
Tooele County Commission Chairman Tom Tripp expressed concern with the County Commission requiring the fair board to expand the demolition derby.
“I think that is a decision best left to the fair board,” he said.
The rest of the County Commission appeared to agree with Tripp, and passed a motion to make the expansion of the demolition derby a recommendation instead of a requirement.
Cushman broke down the grant for the chamber of commerce as up to $2,500 for post-performance expenses for site tours and other expenses related to the Utah Film Commission, up to $6,000 of reimbursement for staff time and other expenses related to tourism, up to $2,500 for tourism readiness training, and up to $10,000 to create a tourism facelift and clean up program for Tooele and Grantsville cities.
“We want to encourage a face lift for businesses on Main Street in both cities,” Cushman said.
The County Commission has approved 29 tourism grants totaling $358,789. That amount includes the two grants approved Tuesday night.
The budget for 2019 tourism grants was $400,000.
The tourism tax fund receives revenue from a 1.0% tax on food purchased in restaurants and a 3.5% tax on lodging in motels and hotels.
State law requires that tourism tax dollars be used to promote tourism or for the maintenance and operation of tourism-related facilities.
The advisory board consists of representatives of motels, restaurants and local tourism industries and attractions. Its composition is specified in state law. State law requires the board weigh in on how tourism tax dollars are spent.
The county expects to take in almost $1.1 million in tourism taxes in 2019.
Criteria considered when evaluating grant requests included how well the project meets the state and county requirements for the use of tourism tax revenue, experience of the project manager in respect to the probability of the project being completed on time and on budget, the long term viability of the project including the possibility for future self-funding, the benefit provided to the community by the project, and the impact on tourism tax revenue, according to online information provided to grant applicants.
The advisory board asked each organization that received a grant to submit a post-event report that includes information on attendance, where people came from by zip code, samples of advertising, how the project acknowledged funding from the county at the event, use of the county’s “So much, so close” brand, and how the event was marketed to an out-of-county audience, according to Cushman.
Separate from the 2019 tourism grant process, the County Commission approved a four-year agreement with Country Fan Fest that included a commitment of $1.7 million in county tourism funds for the festival in November 2018.
The $1.7 million was divided through the four years with up to $600,000 allocated for 2019, up to $500,000 for 2020, up to $400,000 for 2021, and up to $200,000 for 2022.
Myron Bateman, who was a county commissioner at the time the multi-year agreement was approved, said the $1.7 million grant to Country Fan Fest would include some hard assets to make Deseret Peak Complex more suitable for multi-day events. Those assets would become the property of the county, he said.