COQUILLE — Coos County's transient lodging tax work group has accomplished a lot in its three meetings so far, but there is work still left to be done.
Presenting an update to the Coos County Board of Commissioners, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort general manager Hank Hickox broke down the progress the group had made in determining how to structure the management of funds and how they will be utilized.
"Through a proposed lodging tax, Coos County has an opportunity to generate much needed funds for critical county services and at the same time, invest in strengthening tourism as a key element of the South Coast," Hickox said.
One of the first steps was identifying priorities for the funds, which Hickox listed:
- Keep dollars raised in a unified county fund to strategically invest in products that draw interest in Coos County.
- Commit to develop tourism across the whole region.
- Tie investment to real market research and opportunities.
- Funds can be used for market, product development and capital projects that strengthen the county as a tourist destination.
- All funds for product development and capital projects should be for projects located in Coos County with the exception of larger regional projects with matching funds from other sources that will provide a direct benefit to Coos County.
- Funds from marketing should be expended in coordination with adjacent areas that serve as gateways to Coos County.
As a legal structure, Hickox said the group determined the county would need to establish a 501(c)(6) organization and immediately form a subsidiary 501(c)(3) charitable arm that can accept philanthropic grants and donations.
"We would then be able to take the initial funds from our own TLT taxes, but leverage them to get funds from other sources to make the pool of resources even bigger," Hickox said. "We believe the Coos County organization that evolves from this will be a model, the best tourism promotion group in the state of Oregon and other people will want to become a part of us because we're doing so well."
Hickox said the group believed this was the best option because it would be perceived as neutral, accountable to the county and transparent.
To fill its 13 proposed board of director seats, nine of which would be voting members, the work group has determined a method for identifying who and where they should come from.
Four board members would come from the largest generators of revenue, including individual businesses, the tribes and cities.
"It provides incentive to the incorporated areas to dedicate more than the required amount into the county fund so that they can be established as one of the big four," Hickox said. "It also protects the public because these larger generators don't have a majority vote. They have one vote."
The next four members would be based on geographic regions, taking one member from each sector.
The group identified the northern sector as Lakeside, Hauser and Allegany.
The second sector comprises Coos Bay, North Bend, Charleston and Barview.
The third sector reaches from Bandon all the way down to Langlois, and the fourth sector consists of Coquille, Myrtle Point, Powers, Broadbent, Warner, Gaylord and Camas Valley.
To be considered as board members, candidates will have to meet criteria, such as at least five years of experience in tourism-related activities.
The final voting board member is to be appointed by Coos County.
Hickox identified the remaining four spots as ex officio positions for individuals connected to the tourism industry or from gateway areas.
As an example, Hickox said it could be someone from Travel Oregon or the neighboring counties, Douglas and Curry.
Hickox said the group's expertise and diversity would be important in determining how best to use the dollars to benefit the county.
"We're putting these funds in the hands of our best experts in the county, who understand tourism, understand they need to represent their own constituents and will make their decisions in a very thoughtful way," Hickox said.
Having attended a work group meeting, commissioner Melissa Cribbins expressed her amazement at the level of progress of the group.
"I can't believe how much you guys have gotten done," Cribbins said. "I think we all had some concerns putting the group together. It's a very large group and one of diversity, experience and workmanship, and the group was just working really well together."