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In the News

A&P revenue increases after three-year slump

Friday, February 8, 2019

By Tia Lyons
Staff Writer

The El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission finished out 2018 with a nearly $27,000 increase in lodging tax revenue.

The commission draws its revenue from a 3 percent sales tax for local hotels and motels, whose gross receipts rose by nearly $1 million last year.

According to an A&P financial report, Candlewood Suites, which celebrated its grand opening in February 2018, racked up nearly $2.2 million in gross receipts, the most that was reported by the then-11 lodging establishments in town.

Total gross receipts for local hotels and motels came to $11.5 million in 2018, compared to nearly $10.6 million in 2017.

The boost in gross receipts for lodging properties meant a boost in revenue for the A&P commission in 2019.

The commission took in $345,473 in 2018, representing an increase of $26,649 over the 2017 take.

Commissioners welcomed the news as they convened in January to set the 2019 A&P budget and to sort through requests for proposals (RFPs).

For the past three years, commissioners have set conservative budgets as revenues dropped.

In 2016, revenues came in at $353,293.75, compared to $381,471.90 in 2015.

Income fell even further in 2017 when commissioners set a $277,000 budget, with $146,500 designated for funding requests from 11 groups.

Commissioners faced yet another drop in income last year.

The 2018 budget totaled $260,000 and nine groups shared $140,000 that was allocated for RFPs.

Commissioners have said they hope turnaround is sustainable, adding that they are encouraged by the opening of the new Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott in January.

Also, plans were recently announced for a boutique hotel in the area of Washington and Locust.

The project is under development by Newmark Moses Tucker Partners of Little Rock, with a locally-based ownership group.

Called The Haywood, the hotel is expected to be completed by mid-2020 and will become a part of the MAD entertainment complex.

With A&P numbers trending upward in 2018, commissioners were able to make some adjustments to line items in the 2019 budget, including an increase in RFPs.

Groups who requested funding to help advertise and promote local events this year divvied up $160,000, $20,000 more than last year.

Per a recommendation by A&P treasurer Sanjay Patel, the commission also raised the non-designated line item from $15,000 in 2018 to $20,000 this year.

Patel noted that RFPs are doled out early in the year, and the non-designated budget can help with unexpected opportunities that may arise later in the year.

Earlier this week, commissioners were approached with one such opportunity and they voted to dip into the non-designated line item for the $2,000 request from Main Street El Dorado.

The money will be used to help promote an upcoming concert, featuring contemporary Christian music group Big Daddy Weave, at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium.

West Side Christian Baptist Church is hosting the show, which is set for April 16.

Beth Brumley, executive director of Main Street, said the concert will also serve as a fundraiser for Main Street and as part of a longstanding partnership between Main Street and the A&P commission to use the auditorium more.

Events

Main Street was one of 11 groups to receive a piece of the $160,000 pie for 2019.

The group will use its $15,000 award to promote multiple events, including a return of the downtown St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Brumley told commissioners Tuesday that Shamrockin’ on the Square is set for Feb. 16.

She noted that Main Street has not hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration in several years, and Shamrockin’ will serve as a retail promotion to help boost foot traffic for downtown businesses, Brumley said.

She said Shamrockin’ will also be reminiscent of the former Bugs, Bands and Bikes, a popular event Main Street used to present each spring that featured motorcycles, live music and a crawfish boil.

Shamrockin’ will include mudbugs, a performance by the Emily Cole Band, a beer garden and poker run.

Brumley said more details about the event are forthcoming.

The Murphy Arts District was awarded more than half of the $160,000 RFP budget set by the A&P commission.

Like Main Street, MAD will also use the money — $85,000 — to promote multiple events for the year, including a partnership with Main Street to present MusicFest XXXII, which is set for Sept. 27 and 28.

Main Street handles the festival activities, while MAD books the musical headliners in an arrangement that began two years ago.

Bob Tarren, chief marketing officer for MAD, told A&P commissioners that MAD is still scheduling its event lineup for 2019, including securing MusicFest headliners.

“We’re talking to Main Street about lots of great ideas and we think you’re going to be pleased once we get it all worked out,” Tarren said.

He offered commissioners a snapshot of MAD events for the next few of weeks, including a Thursday Night Live performance by the Shotgun Billys on Feb. 7.

Other MAD events that are scheduled for February are:

• Blues artist Robert Finley, Feb. 13.

• A Valentine’s Day dinner with a performance by Roses and Revolvers, Feb. 14.

• Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt acoustic concert, Feb. 17.

• Comedy with the Power Hour, Feb. 22.

• The South Arkansas Symphony: Heroes, Monsters and Madmen, Feb. 23.

Ad budget

The remainder of the 2019 A&P budget includes $60,000 for the Diamond Agency advertising budget; $35,000 to continue publishing the El Dorado Insider for two more years; and $10,000 for administrative costs.

Carol McDade — managing director and publisher of the Diamond Agency, the A&P commission’s ad agency of record — reported that distribution began this week for the 2019 Newcomer’s edition of the quarterly magazine.

The first edition of the Insider traditionally focuses on newcomers and visitors to the area.

McDade said the magazine has also been enhanced with more informative details about El Dorado and a listing of resources for visitors and those who have recently relocated to the area, including elected officials, parks and playgrounds and more hotels and restaurants.

McDade said the issue also includes a special thanks to the A&P and its contribution to keep the magazine running.

The guide was mailed to 1,500 homes and businesses and an additional 3,500 copies are were sent to the El Dorado-Union County Chamber of Commerce to be distributed to local hotels, City Hall and the Arkansas Welcome Center, McDade said.

Copies are also available the chamber office.

“We’re working on the spring edition. It should be out in April,” McDade said.

She also told commissioners that the Diamond Agency will use $3,000 - $4,000 of the advertising budget to pursue advertising opportunities during the annual media auction at the Arkansas Governor’s Conference on Tourism.

The conference is set for Feb. 24 - 26 in Hot Springs.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@eldoradonews.com.