Washington County allocates $37,000 to for-profit organizations to spur tourism

In this 2017 file photo, cyclists wait for the start of a heat at the Red Rock Rampage, one of the events which recently received extra funding to bring more tourist dollars to Southern Utah, St. George, Utah, March 25, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Washington County Commission approved the appropriation of thousands of dollars to organizations to help bring more tourists to southwestern Utah.

A chart shows how much money each for-profit organization can receive from Washington County for advertising expenses to bring tourists to the area, as well as the projected economic impact | Data courtesy of Washington County Tourism Advisory Board | Click to enlarge

The decision was made Tuesday at the County Commission Meeting, which was attended by many representatives of the nonprofit and for-profit organizations receiving funds from the county. The county gave $37,000 to nine different for-profit entities, including the Colorado City Music Festival, Zion Canyon Music Festival, Red Rock Rampage, the True Grit Epic mountain bike race and others.

All of the money invested in the organizations have events in Washington County that help bring tourism dollars to the area, commissioner Dean Cox said at the meeting. The money is used for advertising and marketing for events.

“We’re not just handing money out to organizations,” Cox said. “We recognize that there is ancillary benefit to the county as these events come in.”

The money allocated to the organizations is only reimbursed to them after receipts for advertising are brought back to the county, Cox said.

In this file photo, Cyclists wait for the start of a heat at Saturday’s Red Rock Rampage. St. George, Utah, March 25, 2017 | Photo by Sheldon Demke, St. George News

The events will bring much more cash to the county than they’re allocating to the organizations for advertising, according to the economic impact studies completed by Washington County Tourism Advisory Board. The total amount of economic impact dollars on Washington County after all of the events hosted by all of the for-profit organizations receiving money from the county is projected to be about $3.5 million.

For example, the county is appropriating $7,000 to the Oil Painters of America, which is planning on  holding an exhibition in Washington County. People visiting the Oil Painters for America exhibitions will stay in hotels, go shopping and use restaurants, which results in an estimated $686,000 economic impact to Washington County, according to the county’s study.

“The beauty of this whole tourism operation is that it brings dollars from outside of the community into the area,” said Kevin Lewis, the Washington County director of tourism. “Folks come here, they spend their money, they eat in the restaurants, stay in the hotels, and then they go home again, so our community gets to enjoy the benefit of that fresh money.”

There was a public hearing at the County Commission meeting before the commissioners unanimously approved the resolution, but the only member of the public who spoke about the funds was Tom Bennett, founder of the Colorado City Music Festival.

“We were awarded these funds last year as well, and it made a huge difference for us,” Bennett said. “We had really great media coverage from it last year — some of the first positive articles I’ve ever seen about the area.”

In this file photo, the Washington County Commission meet in St. George, Utah, Sept. 18, 2018 | Photo by Spencer Ricks, St. George News

The third annual Colorado City Music Festival will take place in Hildale in April 2019 and will bring an economic impact of $150,000 to Washington County, according to their study.

The county also allocated funds for the same purpose to nonprofit organizations, like Huntsman World Senior Games, Silver Reef Museum and the Docutah International Film Festival.

The only for-profit organization that did not receive money from the county after requesting $50,000 was Sand Hollow Resort, which hosted the Professor of Rock live concert earlier this month. Sand Hollow Resort didn’t receive funding from the county because “it did not provide enough information to establish the likely tourism impact,” according to the economic impact study.

“We have a lot of people who are interested in being in our area and participating in neat events,” Lewis said. “These events just bring a good vibe to our community and gives the community something to participate in, and that brings a lot of dollars in as well.”

Email: sricks@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @SpencerRicks

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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7 Comments

  • Not_So_Much October 31, 2018 at 6:19 am

    What about the schools, the children? Yes some laws need to be changed, but these are real dollars that could be used to lessen the load for taxpayers. Last time I looked, there was no shortage of tourists.

  • Craig October 31, 2018 at 12:00 pm

    A little uneasy about taxpayer money going to for-profit organizations. By definition, you simply add to their profit.

  • tazzman October 31, 2018 at 1:30 pm

    How about the county subsidize every for-profit in the entire county? They bring in plenty of dollars to the economy, including wages?

    Why is the county subsidizing for-profits? If they are profitable, why do they need a subsidy?

  • KR567 October 31, 2018 at 4:51 pm

    Hmmmm.. sounds like somebody has been bought eh ?

  • utahdiablo October 31, 2018 at 10:16 pm

    You POS in the Washington County Commission have been bought off yet again, this time using our taxpayer monies to pay for more tourists? ….Vote them the hell out

  • stevenxfiles October 31, 2018 at 11:17 pm

    This seems incredibly corrupt! 1.) We all pay taxes. 2.) We all Do Not benefit from tourism.
    As a matter of fact, as others have commented, we have enough tourists as it is! Anyone tried driving down state street in Hurricane lately? It’s a never ending stream of visitors. Enough already.

    These commission ties to tourist industries which benefit from this need some very thorough journalistic investigation. This stinks.

  • Rice November 1, 2018 at 8:45 am

    Everything around here’s a money grab now. Growing up I always looked forward to the city parades and events but it seems like everything focuses more on getting people to spend money rather than coming together as a community. Parades are filled with advertisements instead of floats, even vehicles with for sale signs, it’s pathetic. How does giving this money to for-profit businesses really benefit the people that live here? I wish the city council would put a bit more effort into making St. George more appealing for the people that live here instead of catering to the tourism aspect. Making the locals happy is the best thing you can do for tourism.

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