By Nicole Barde
CEMETARY GIN LAUNCH A SUCCESS, A SPECIAL EVENT RETREAT WAS HELD WITH NO RETAIL MERCHANTS IN ATTENDANCE AND LANCE GILMAN SAYS “WE NEED TO HELP THE VC MERCHANTS…WE NEED THE REVENUE”
I have been having trouble with the blog for a week, I apologize for this being so late. I typically have active links to the underlined portions of the blog but that is not working yet so I will add them when it gets fixed. For now here is the report:
We went thru this month’s Agenda pretty quickly. Deny Dotson, VCTC Director, was out on vacation and staff members Katie Demuth and Cory Wood did a good job of making the reports.
There was a nice marketing presentation about the launch of the Cemetery Gin project. I suggest you look at it, you’ll find some actual industry feedback and awards. I think the project was well thought out and executed….now it needs to grow to its full potential. All of the bars in town (and some in Reno) are serving it, many are selling bottles. I think the fact that it is from Frey Distillery, a local, family owned boutique distiller, is a great asset for both the gin and VC. Frey is gaining some recognition for its products (Vodka, Bourbon, Brandy and wines) and as they get wider visibility…so will VC.
The staff, RAD strategies, Liquid Blue and the Board had an offsite “special event retreat”. A few food/bar merchants also attended but there were no retail merchants in attendance either because they were not invited or chose not to attend. Needless to say having any type of planning activity without a large retail merchant contingent isn’t a representation of the VC businesses. If they are not able to attend then an effort should be made to at least get their inputs before the meetings.
During the financial update presentation a question was asked about TRI getting its own zip code for the purposes of getting all of our (Storey County) sales taxes. Currently the zip code out at TRI is a Sparks’ zip code and so Storey County is not directly credited with most of those taxes. While on guaranteed share it was important but it wasn’t as critical since we got what the state formula kicked out . Now that we are off of guaranteed share we have to get those taxes directly but until we get our own TRI zip code it’s an uphill fight with Washoe County.
County Commissioner and Board member Lance Gilman made note that it’s been a banner year for construction out at TRI and since Storey is off of guaranteed share ( and can never go back) that it is important to make sure Storey County gets its proper share of sales taxes from Washoe County. He also noted “we need to help the VC merchants….we need the revenue”. My only question is………why is it only now that “we need to help the VC merchants”?
I and many others before me have repeatedly asked the question “what is VCTC doing to help the VC merchants make money?” The answer has always been…” it’s up to them to make money”. Some of the merchants have stopped going to the VCTC meetings because they are tired of their needs and requests being ignored others don’t see the value to them. I was the ONLY “public” at this month’s meeting. This should speak volumes to the VCTC but they shrug it off as another example of the merchants being flaky. Instead of viewing the lack of attendance as a VCTC problem, it is viewed as a merchant problem.
While I agree that it is up to the VC merchants to make sure that they offer products and services that will sell I also think that someone, somewhere , somehow needs to give thought to an Economic Development plan for VC. I wrote about this in my June 2015 VCTC report where I stated:
The VCTC general fund issues aside there is a bigger problem. The lack of a Development or Redevelopment District plan for VC is the problem. As of June 16th, and I asked, Pat Whitten says that there are no plans or interest in having one. The County has one for TRI why not for V.C.?
I think that it is very short sighted of the County to think that it can strengthen and grow the businesses in VC solely thru the efforts of the VCTC. It requires leadership not just a promotional and marketing implementation organization which is essentially what VCTC is.
If the VCTC had as their objective “increase sales and revenues for VC merchants and stakeholders” they might be doing different things, differently. But essentially their objective is “bring people to VC” which is an activity not an end result. The Tourism Tax receipts are reviewed in the VCTC meetings but mostly as a VCTC revenue indicator, not an impact indicator of their activities.
In my mind “Make V.C. a great place to live and do business for current and potential business owners, merchants and employees by strengthening its historic ties, its unique architecture, lifestyle and visitor experience” might be something to strive for….but that’s not for the VCTC to do…it’s for the County to lead. We need an Economic Re/Development Plan.
I really don’t care what it’s called, Economic Development Plan, Strategic Plan, or a Wild Ass Plan. If Lance can bring some sense of importance and urgency to actively helping VC GROW by bringing in new ventures and help the existing VC merchants increase sales so Storey County can collect taxes it would go a long way to ensure a broader economic stability during “down” times.
Lastly, the Financial update showed that while the revenues for the (July- October) Transient Lodging Tax were slightly ahead from last year the (May- August) ¼% Tourism tax was lagging by about $3518. Cory will continue to validate that they are correct thru the dept. of Taxation.
Each of these reports has a lag time between when the money is paid to the merchant and when we get the actual deposits so they’re never totally current. They also have different “as of” dates which makes it difficult to compare and trend both items. The takeaway from these two reports was that the closure of the Delta and Bonanza may affect both the Tourism and Gaming revenues that the VCTC relies on. It was mentioned that the upside of the closures was that the remaining restaurants in town are getting a booming business in food and liquor revenues as a result. So the net effect from a revenue standpoint to the VCTC may be neutral if the business is still staying in VC but going to other establishments.
Additionally, the Transient Lodging tax report tracks both number of rooms rented and occupancy rate but not the total available room inventory. This means that we can show a high occupancy rate and have a much smaller room inventory. 40 rooms occupied out of 100 available rooms is 40%, and so is 4 rooms out of 10 available.
We’ve had some hotelier’s close completely and many close or reduce days during the off season so to me it’s hard to see the relative “health” of our room stay business. But it’s not important enough to track for the VCTC.
The overall financial report as of the end of October shows revenues ahead of budget by $103,223 , a good thing, and expenses over budget by $187,528, a bad thing. The thing to remember is that there is a decrease in both revenues and expenses in the off season so this may in fact smooth out by the end of the year. The items we know will be over are the costs for equipping the arena since they were not originally in the budget. Events are leaning towards loss at this point. I.e., Hot August nights shows no revenues and expenses of about $20k. The Camel Races is the largest event and it was budgeted to net $10k, in reality they lost about $4k. The rationale for the events, and all the promotional expenses, is to drive traffic into VC so people spend money with the merchants. The VCTC deems its job well done if they bring people into town.
The October ending balance of the VCTC general fund/reserves is at $362,469. The fund has swung from $301,924 in August up to $ 404,154 in September.