After a decade spent handling tourism promotion in-house, the city of Sherman is planning to once again outsource those efforts to the local Chamber of Commerce. The move is expected to save the city a modest amount of money on a yearly basis, but is being made more with the goal of growing local events in mind, according to city leaders.
“This conversation has really evolved over a year’s time or so, because the city is looking for community partners to help us leverage what we can do in several areas, particularly tourism,” said Sherman Mayor Cary Wacker. “Our events are growing significantly and the Chamber is in a much better position than the city to grow those events further still.”
The transitional efforts of Wacker and others on the Council actually started two years ago, when the city ceded partial and then full control of its Hot Summer Night concert series. Wacker cited the organization’s success in managing that program — specifically, the work of Chamber Events Coordinator Lauren Roth — as emblematic of the group’s abilities to help the city’s cultural portfolio flourish.
“They have capacity that we don’t have, because of the volunteer base of their membership,” said Wacker. “And also, the ability to go out and raise money for sponsorships and all, because that is just a natural extension of what they do at the Chamber of Commerce.”
The city will enter a $240,000 contract with Chamber on Oct. 1 to provide tourism outreach, renewed on a yearly basis. Budget estimates provided by Sherman Chief Financial Officer Robby Hefton said that amount represents a savings of $8,410 over what the city would spend on tourism otherwise.
“Our tourism program is really just a subset of our hotel/motel tax fund,” said Hefton, in explaining the shift in financing.
That fund, which brought in approximately $900,000 last year, also pays for debt service on the city’s renovations to its Kidd-Key Auditorium, an incentive program for downtown building renovations, and the Sherman Museum. Under the new plan, those first two functions will remain with the city, while the Museum’s $70,000 budget will shift to the Chamber.
“Whether we do it in-house or this program is managed through the Chamber, our goals and objectives don’t change,” said Hefton. “Our core values don’t change. Our mission doesn’t change. … So what we’re talking about isn’t a revamping of all of those things, it’s really the Chamber using their own resources and their base to do what our current goals and objectives already are.”
The Chamber plans to increase the city’s tourism advertising budget from $21,000 to $30,000, among other changes, said Eddie Brown, the organization’s director. A new tourism coordinator will be hired — a position which will be housed in the Chamber’s central-Sherman office — and the city’s current director has resigned, said Wacker.
If all goes according to plan, the Sherman Chamber will promote the city’s numerous civic events by leveraging its membership assets, said Brown.
“The idea of the Sherman Chamber of Commerce being involved with tourism is we’re doing some of that already, anyway,” explained the director. “We’re working with local groups and organizations in our region to help promote Sherman and our facilities and the community that we live in. So those are just naturals for us.”