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Chat about changes to the Convention and Visitors Bureau with director Judy Billings

August 29, 2007

This chat has already taken place. Read the transcript below.

Judy Billings

Judy Billings, Senior Vice President of the Lawrence Convention and Visitors Bureau, will join us for an online chat to discuss changes in the CVB that would make it the organization to run a 41-county National Heritage Area focused on the role of Kansas and Missouri in the Civil War era.

Moderator:

Thank you for joining us. This is 6 News Reporter Laura McHugh. I'll be moderating this chat. Judy Billings is here to talk about a new opportunity for Lawrence with the National Heritage Area. Let's get started.

Moderator:

Describe for our readers what change is taking place at the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Judy Billings:

The City has had a contract with the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce to operate a Convention and Visitors Bureau on behalf of the City. The bed tax which is 5% on each hotel stay is budgeted in the city budget for this operation. The change will be in the contract. The city will now contract with a new management organization. The Lawrence CVB will continue to do the same promotional work it has always done. The new management organization will manage the CVB and the new Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area. There is a possibility that other organizations will choose to contract for the same type of services.

Moderator:

And this organization might be called Destination Management, Inc?

Judy Billings:

Yes, something like that. When we file the coporate papers with the KS Secretary of State, we'll find out if the name is available. Commissioner Highberger expressed an interest in finding another name so anyone with a good suggestion is welcome to submit it. Destination Management is a common name that promotional agencies of this type use so it fits with what people around the country are beginning to become familiar with.

agardner:

Can you explain the funding for the new Destination Management entity? Will it involve new local tax money?

Judy Billings:

The major source of funding for the CVB is the bed tax which is paid by our visitors. Some public and mostly private $$ is being raised to establish the heritage area which will also have the opportunity to obtain federal $$ already budgeted for these purposes in heritage areas around the country. Each entity being managed will pay it's share for the services of the management company no matter where its funding comes from.

Moderator:

You're also requesting $25,000 in city funding for a management plan. Would this just be one-time funding, and how would it be used?

Judy Billings:

Yes, this is a one-time request. It will come from the Visit 2020 Fund which is also generated by the bed tax collections and does not come from the city's general fund.

Moderator:

How will this group work with Douglas County as well?

Judy Billings:

The County Commission is on record as supporting the concept. Details are yet to be worked out; however, we think their interest is in consolidating the resources for heritage societies and sites in Douglas County.

Moderator:

Describe what the National Heritage Area is and how it's different from anything else we have in this region.

Judy Billings:

I don't think anyone believes that the federal government will create a new national park. What they are doing is creating a very select number of heritage areas in the country to promote, preserve and conserve landscapes and stories that are important to the national story. This takes Congressional action and a bill signed by the President of the United States. Our bill was signed into law on October 12, 2006. We join 36 other such areas currently with the designation.

kneejerkreaction:

I"ve always thought that Lawrence doesn't capitalize enough on the Quantrill thing. One could set up tours, lectures, reenactments and in the evening a huge street party with downtown closed off. Would bring in a lot of business. What's your intention with this new effort?

Judy Billings:

Great question. We have just unveiled an "itour" of Quantrill's Raid. You can borrow the equipment from our Visitor Information Center in the depot north of the Kansas River Bridge and go out on your own. The new effort will begin to put stories like this one in context by looking at all perspectives of the story in the various counties in the area. There are 41 counties including 29 in Kansas and 12 in Missouri that share many aspects of our heritage. All that you suggest is in the works....there's a street party planned by the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce in downtown on September 14.

agardner:

How will this transfer of the CVB affect the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce?

Judy Billings:

As of November 1, the CVB will no longer be housed within the Lawrence Chamber of Commerce. We are looking for a new location for the office.

sillyboy434:

Will the CVB and heritage group work primarily separately or together and if together, how?

Judy Billings:

The heritage area has been emerging out of the efforts of the CVB so the two organizations will continue to work together. Freedom's Frontier is established as a 501c3 organization with its own Board of Trustees. It will have a separate budget from the CVB and will contract with Destination Management for services. This should be seamless as all proposals suggest that I continue in the management role as an employee of the new organization.

Moderator:

Will the CVB physically of the Chamber of Commerce office?

Judy Billings:

Yes, we are currently looking for office space to be occupied by November 1.

Moderator:

What's the timeline from here? When do you think tourists will actually be able to come to the National Heritage Area?

Judy Billings:

They actually already are coming. But, the next step for the heritage area is to create an integrated plan. This is required by NPS and is to be signed off on by the Secretary of Interior no later than October 12, 2009. This will be a public process with meetings and electronic input to create a document that will guide us through the next 5-10 years. We are working on a Scope of Work and Contract with a team of professionals led by National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations. We expect to begin later this year and think it will take at least a year to complete the public process. In the meantime, the grassroots group from throughout the 41 counties is beginning to promote events and relevant sites collectively.

Judy Billings:

I'm very excited about the potential that this new organization brings. I believe it's visionary on the part of our elected officials and that it will bring new resources to all of our cultural organizations. Lawrence and Douglas County have a very rich history that is at the center of these shared stories.

Moderator:

That wraps up our chat. Thank you for joining us.

Judy Billings:

Thanks for the opportunity. judy

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