Recently I was asked, "What is the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau and what does it do?" Many people probably aren't aware of us and what we do to benefit our community. So here is some information on who we are, what we do and where we are located.
The Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau offices are located at the Fort Dodge Chamber of Commerce, 1406 Central Ave. Although we have offices with the Chamber we are not the Chamber. We are a separate organization. We came into existence in 1996 after the citizens of Fort Dodge voted for a 5 percent hotel/motel tax. This tax is added to the bill of the customers staying in our hotels and motels. The state of Iowa required cities to spend 50 percent of the initial 5 percent tax on marketing their communities as a visitors' destination. Currently the motel/hotel tax is 7 percent. The CVB receives 3 percent of the tax collected, 2 percent goes to the city of Fort Dodge for parks, fire and police while the remaining 2 percent goes to Rogers Sports Complex to pay off bonds for its recent improvements.
Local business individuals created the CVB as a private nonprofit 501(c)(6) organization. Four citizens even signed a $15,000 personal note to get it started. They established a board of directors consisting of two motel owners, two from the hospitality industry, two from retail, two citizens at large, one City Council member and the mayor of Fort Dodge. Since the beginning, the CVB's mission has been to enhance business for local hotel/motel, hospitality and retail businesses by recruiting conferences, meetings, special events, concerts, sporting events and visitors to the community.
In 1996, the first executive director, J.P. Mansfield, was hired and the CVB was off and running. Although primarily interested in bringing visitors to town, the CVB also supported projects to bring new businesses to town. It was Mansfield and Bob Bocken, a CVB volunteer, who authorized the document that brought the prison and its new jobs to Fort Dodge.
When the CVB first started, it took a while to convince people that Fort Dodge was a good destination to hold events and conferences. Today, we host of variety of small and medium-sized conventions and conference each year. Many of the events are organized and hosted by volunteers from local service clubs and local businesses.
One of the first projects the CVB supported was Rogers Sports Complex. The CVB annually commits financially to Rogers Sports Complex which enables Fort Dodge to host the Girls State Softball Championships. We also partner with the city and local associations to promote the complex for a variety of youth and adult tournaments. Even today, 51 percent of all visitors come to Fort Dodge because of events at Rogers Sports Complex.
Besides Rogers Sports Complex, the Webster County Fairgrounds draws thousands of visitors to town each year. Each year, it is the venue for numerous cattle, horse and dog shows, flea markets and craft fairs, figure 8 racing, the Webster County Fair, weddings and various other events. This is an important venue in our community and the CVB supports the events coming to town.
In 1999, I came aboard as the executive director. At that time, we realized the importance of Webster County events to Fort Dodge. Our board of directors added a representative from Webster County to the board. Currently, our board includes representatives from three hotels, two attractions, two retail businesses, two restaurants, the mayor of Fort Dodge, a City Council representative, a Webster County representative and a Fort Dodge Chamber representative.
In 2007, Kerrie Kuiper took over as the marketing director for the CVB. Kuiper has taken the CVB to a new level and is marketing Fort Dodge attractions and events throughout the state of Iowa. She is involved with several state tourism committees and sits on some of those organizations' grant review committees. The board has appreciated this new dimension to the CVB.
The CVB has been and will continue to be a driving force behind the development of new attractions. Gypsum City Off Highway Vehicle Park is an example of this. Larry Leiting, past president of the board, led this project. The CVB, along with the hard work of the city of Fort Dodge, secured land and funding through state grants and changed the necessary state laws in order to develop the park. This unique park will eventually be the largest OHV park in the state and will have the potential to draw thousands of visitors to Fort Dodge.
Giving back to Fort Dodge
The CVB has also given back to the city of Fort Dodge. Since 1996, the CVB has invested $391,937 in city projects. Some of the projects that the CVB has invested in are: Rogers Sports Complex, Oleson Park Bandshell, Riverfront Study, Recreational Trail Study, Parks/Recreation Study, Gypsum City OHV Park, Blanden Memorial Art Museum and the Karl King Municipal Band to name just a few. These investments benefit all Fort Dodge residents.
The CVB is now involved in 95 yearly events that it invests funds in. We provide partial funding and promote both Fort Dodge and Webster County events. Specifically, Fort Dodge projects include the Dodger Stadium turf project, Iowa Central Community College Bio Lab, Fort Museum, Harmony Brigade, Hawkeye Community Theatre, Humane Society of North Central Iowa, Frontier Days, July 4 fireworks, Veterans Memorial, Shellabration, Dragon Boats and Tuff-N-Nuff Rodeo. Webster County events include the Dayton Rodeo, Gowrie Fire Department Tractor/Truck Pull, Brushy Creek Recreational Area, Webster County Historical Museum, Mineral City Speedway, Webster County Fairgrounds and Webster County Conservation programs.
Since 1996, the CVB has received an average of $185,594 per year from hotel/motel tax. For 2010, the CVB has a budget of $176,000. In that budget 50 percent of the funds will be used on marketing Fort Dodge and Webster County and its events as well as advertising with media; 28 percent on wages, benefits and insurance; 14 percent returned to the city for city projects such as Girls State, Rogers Sports Complex, studies, etc.; 6 percent spent on office rent and administrative support; and 2 percent legal support, office supplies and postage.
The State of Iowa Tourism Department reported that tourism is a $6.2 billion industry in Iowa. According to the Tourism Department, in 2007, tourism in Webster County and Fort Dodge generated $58 million tourism dollars. This includes sales tax money, state tax money, employment, motel tax, retail, hospitality and motel business. The state uses a figure of $220 per night being spent for a party of three who spends the night at a destination. The CVB uses the figure of $125 being spent for that same party of three. We are much more conservative in our numbers, because we know we can prove and justify our figures if we need to. We know that the Fort Dodge CVB and its investments in groups and events generate $18 million for Fort Dodge businesses. For every dollar spent by the CVB, $26 comes back to the community. Roll that figure over four times and that means for every dollar invested $104 is reinvested in our community. Therefore, we are making a significant contribution to our community.
The CVB staff and board of directors will continue to work hard to bring visitors to town. Its support has and will continue to make it possible for special events to come to town. This contributes to our local economy and adds more recreational opportunities for our residents.
Dan Payne is the executive director of the Fort Dodge Convention and Visitors Bureau.