Baker Reflects on Tourism Commission Tenure - The Missourian: Pacific

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Baker Reflects on Tourism Commission Tenure

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Posted: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 7:15 pm

Tim Baker believes that his tenure as chair of the Pacific Tourism Commission helped to create a broad-brush approach to how the city markets itself.

“The commission was new, but we believed that we had to look at the whole city — where do people eat, sleep, shop and have fun in Pacific,” he said. “That was our approach to bringing more visitors.”

Voters approved the collection of taxes by the two motels in April 2007. By state statute, taxes collected by the local motels-hotels were to be used by an advisory board for advertising and promotion of tourism.

In September 2007, Mayor Herb Adams established the five-member Pacific Tourism Commission, which by state law included one member of the hotel and motel industry, two from the tourism industry and the remaining two from the general business community.

Adams also appointed one member of the commission to serve as liaison to the board of aldermen.

Members can only serve two consecutive three-year terms.

As a third-term president of the Pacific Area Chamber of Commerce, who had worked to promote the tourism tax, Baker was tapped to chair the new commission.

During his tenure, $350,000 in tourism taxes were collected to promote the city and attract visitors.

Early on, Adams called for a portion of the funds to be held in a reserve to pay for large or unforeseen projects that would benefit tourism.

The commission was inundated with applications for portions of the funds to promote local events and projects that individuals and groups identified as tourism.

“The first call on the funds was from groups who promoted tourism with big events like the Chamber, Lions Club and Pacific Partnership,” Baker said. “The commission thought that was the right use of those funds. All those groups were bringing tourists into the city.”

Among events that were advertised with tourism tax funds were Cruise Night, Gun Show, Lions Club Circus, Model Train Show, Monster Fest, Railroad Day, Spookfest and Christmas on the Plaza.

The commission also allocated funds for a replica Civil War cannon in Blackburn Park. The cannon was an Eagle Scout project by local Scout Zach Myers and immediately attracted visitors to the hilltop park.

“We also paid for one of the Civil War plaques that the city put up on Blackburn Park and at Pacific Station Plaza,” Baker said. “Everybody recognized that the Civil War was bringing us a lot of visitors.”

The commission also approved a grant to Pat Smiley’s Veterans Walk, which is in the design and installation process to be installed in Liberty Field. The project includes 25 granite markers spaced along the one-mile walking trail in Liberty Field, with language and graphics depicting every military conflict in U.S. history.

“This is the kind of thing that our city should have,” Baker said. “Like the Civil War cannon, these veterans markers will bring visitors.”

Tourism commission members also designed and had constructed the electronic sign on Interstate 44 adjacent to the government center. The flashing signal promotes public events taking place in the city.

“This was a big expenditure, but the commission felt it made Pacific and what’s going on here visible on I-44,” Baker said.

Two years ago, the commission designed directional signs — that are still in storage awaiting final MoDOT approval — that mimic railroad crossing signs with information on each arm directing motorists to lodging, parks and shopping districts.

“We wanted to create a distinctive brand for the city,” Baker said. “We saw the role of the tourism commission to develop programs that would attract tourists and provide the information they need while they are here.”

He said the tourism commission was justified in its railroad crossing sign design when Pacific was given the UP Railroad’s Rail Town USA designation.

Baker noted that the Pacific Partnership has made great strides in promoting the city’s railroad heritage with the development and continued improvements in Pacific Station Plaza and its annual Railroad Day celebration.

“I think the tourism commission will continue to use our rail heritage to promote the city,” Baker said.

Last year, the commission funded a Pacific High School design contest for new entrance signs on East and West Osage. Bids will be sought soon for construction of those signs, which are designed to last for 20 years.

Rodeo

More recently, tourism funds were used as the upfront money to bring a rodeo to Pacific in October, which was a two-day event that attracted huge audiences in the Liberty Field equestrian center.

“This was good use of the tourism funds,” Baker said. “Because we had those funds available we were able to secure the rodeo. It would have taken months to raise those funds if it hadn’t had them.”

As the tourism commission matured, members began to look at ways to prove the benefits of the tourism funds.

“We looked at ways to survey local restaurants and even the civic events to see how many came from out of town,” Baker said. “We didn’t come up with a specific accountability system, but the idea kept coming up. I’m sure the commission will continue to work on that under Keith Bruns as chair.”

Baker will continue to serve as the Pacific representative on the Franklin County Tourism Commission.

/local_news/pacific