CW, other groups request $2.8 million in city funding for coming fiscal year

Staff writer

Four organizations representing local nonprofits, arts groups and major players in the city’s economy requested a combined $2.8 million in funding from City Council during a Monday work session.

At the meeting, City Council heard outside agency funding proposals from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance, the Williamsburg Area Arts Commission and Williamsburg Human Services.

City manager Andrew Trivette and finance director Barbara Dameron are expected to take the funding requests into consideration as they develop the city’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2020. City Council is expected to adopt a final budget for the coming fiscal year in May.

Colonial Williamsburg led the pack, requesting $1.5 million in fiscal year 2020. If approved, the funds would primarily go toward the foundation’s marketing efforts, executive director of brand and marketing Andrea Sardone said. In the current fiscal year, which ends June 30, Colonial Williamsburg received $1.3 million in funding from the city.

Sardone was joined by Jeff Duncan, the foundation’s vice president of real estate. During a presentation to council, the two touted CW’s highlights from 2018, including 550,171 paid visitors and $443 million in an overall, statewide economic impact.

“The portion of the number that relates to the Greater Williamsburg region is $272 million of economic impact,” Duncan said.

Colonial Williamsburg and its visitors also paid $3.9 million in rooms, meals and the city portion of state sales taxes, and CW paid $2.2 million directly to the city in real estate and property taxes, Duncan said. Despite the strong numbers, Sardone said CW is looking to grow even more in 2019 by strengthening its marketing reach in East Coast markets from New York to Georgia.

Sardone said the foundation hopes to employ what she called the “human connector brand positioning,” which markets Colonial Williamsburg as a way for visitors to unplug from their busy schedules and reconnect with their families and friends by stepping backwards in time.

“In the New York to Georgia footprint, there are 19 million people who would seriously consider coming to Colonial Williamsburg or the Historic Triangle for a vacation once they saw that human connector positioning,” Sardone said. “We will use this data to work with the destination as much as we can to capture as many of those people as possible to drive them into our area.”

Terry Banez, interim executive director of the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance’s Business Council, was also at the meeting to give council an update on the group’s recent strides and goals for 2019.

In the past, the city has funded the Chamber and Tourism Alliance with $800,000 dispersed in quarterly payments. Trivette said Senate Bill 942 mandates that the city cannot reduce the level of funding that it gives to the Chamber and Tourism Alliance annually.

“It’s a little different this year for the Chamber and Tourism Alliance, because SB 942 forced us to consolidate our funding in the region for the Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance into one pool,” he said. “Our funding of their operations are guaranteed and controlled by state statutes.”

Banez said the Business Council is still working on developing its bylaws and filling out its proposed 26-member board. The group now represents 585 area businesses and 57 nonprofits. Other highlights include the recent launch of ASPIRE, the Business Council’s organization for local young professionals, along with its Women’s Business Council Table of 8 and Business After Hours networking events.

The Chamber and Tourism Alliance did not request anything over the mandated $800,000, Trivette said.

The Human Services Advisory Board, which reviews funding requests from local nonprofits and health agencies, requested $434,150 in assistance for the upcoming year. If approved, the funds will be dispersed to 14 area groups. New this year is $1,000 requested for House of Mercy, a local nonprofit focused on caring for the city’s homeless population. In the current fiscal year, Williamsburg Human Services received $432,945 in city funding.

“This is an extensive list of partner agencies in the community that do a lot of good and serve a lot of people, and I’m very thankful that they’re here, but also thankful that you all have taken the time to look at every request,” Vice-Mayor Doug Pons said.

Finally, the Williamsburg Area Art Commission requested $75,000 in funding next fiscal year. The group has received 30 funding requests from local arts groups, WAAC chairwoman Susan Branch Smith said, and hopes to receive an additional $75,000 from James City County and $9,000 from the state. The amount requested by the Arts Commission is level with funding the group received from the city this year.

“Human services is about physical health, and the Arts Commission is about cultural health in this community,” Mayor Paul Freiling said. “Sure, one has a greater degree of urgency than the other, but they’re both important if you want to have a healthy, well-rounded community.”

Arriaza can be reached at 757-790-9313 or on Twitter @rodrigoarriaza0.

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