Matthes proposes partnership between tourism bureau, cultural affairs

Sunday, August 28, 2011 | 5:11 p.m. CDT; updated 12:19 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 1, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Office of Cultural Affairs and the Convention and Visitors Bureau would work together in the same building if the Columbia City Council approves a plan in the proposed budget.

City Manager Mike Matthes included the idea in his budget for fiscal 2012. “I recommend they retain their distinct identities but begin to coordinate their efforts intentionally,” he said.

The council is holding work sessions and public hearings on the budget and plans to approve a final spending plan at its Sept. 19 meeting. The budget will take effect Oct. 1.

The Office of Cultural Affairs and the Convention and Visitors Bureau have already worked together in the past, cultural affairs manager Connie Kacprowicz said.

“Both entities have funding that they give to community agencies, so there is some overlap there," Kacprowicz said.

The main difference is that the tourism bureau focuses more on bringing visitors to Columbia, while the Office of Cultural Affairs focuses on promoting the arts.

Kacprowicz said there is plenty of room "to look for new opportunities" and that the two agencies will work together on a strategic plan.

Matthes originally proposed merging the two departments. At the end of June, the Columbia Hospitality Association debated the idea. The city manager also met with cultural affairs and tourism bureau officials.

"The Columbia Hospitality Association did not want the two departments to merge, but certainly they see the importance of the two organizations working together,” said Amy Schneider, acting director of the tourism bureau.

"No one had a problem with working together," Kacprowicz said. "The fear was that some of the services would have to be cut.”

Schneider said each office would keep its own mission. She thinks the change will be positive. "Any time you get two organizations working together, when you've got all these creative minds working together, big things can happen," she said.

To make sure that happens, Matthes plans to move the Office of Cultural Affairs into the Walton Building at 300 S. Providence Road to share the space with the Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce also occupies that building, along with Regional Economic Development Inc.

REDI, however, is moving into the new parking garage at Fifth and Walnut streets.

“It is just moving an office," Schneider said. "There are no jobs being created; there are no jobs being taken away.”

Work on the strategic plan will begin after the city hires permanent directors for both offices. On Friday, the city posted a job announcement for manager of the Office of Cultural Affairs.

The total proposed budget for the Office of Cultural Affairs in fiscal 2012 is $358,591, which is down 5.4 percent from what was budgeted for this year. The budget also calls for a total tourism bureau budget of $1.89 million next year, up 3.1 percent from fiscal 2011.

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