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