Middletown’s visitors bureau
gets major overhaul
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Middletown Convention and Visitors Bureau is rebooting after concerns raised
about its operations led to 11 of its 12 board members being replaced this
refocusing of the official marketing and sales organization for Middletown comes on the
heels of a year that saw the city welcome dozens of new businesses and host
sold-out events that stimulated the local economy.
takeaway is that it’s amazing we have 12 people who are very excited and
engaged,” said local entrepreneur Ami Vitori, who was selected president when
the new interim board met last week. “They are super-excited and super-engaged.”
The new board will now get to work
restructuring the visitors bureau, including re-evaluating how to best go about
its mission to support projects that promote Middletown’s growth, stimulate its
economy, and encourage businesses to locate here.
“Everything is on the
table so we can get the best use of our resources,” Vitori said. “The biggest
challenge is how to get the best use our funds to the get the best bang for the
The MCVB is
financially supported through the city’s 3 percent lodging tax, commonly
referred to as a bed tax, that’s collected at the city’s 12 hotels and motels.
The amount of
money received varies each year, depending on the occupancy rate at the hotels.
In 2016, Middletown received $330,793 from its bed tax, which went
into the general fund, according to Jacob Burton, Middletown’s finance director.
an April 2016 letter from Adkins to the MCVB board, about $120,000 was budgeted
for MCVB use.
Middletown City Council has appointed
11 new members to its 12-member Convention and Visitors Bureau board of
trustees, including Ami Vitori, far left, local entrepreneur and owner of Torchlight Pass, who was selected president. The
MCVB is the official marketing and sales organization for the city of Middletown. STAFF FILE
PHOTOS Staff Writer
A complete overhaul of leadership
for the resignations of the previous board stemmed from concerns raised by
Adkins in April 2016 about various operational issues and strategic plans.
concerns, according to Adkins, were the tensions between MCVB and Downtown
Middletown Inc.; that the MCVB was dedicated to funding, but not implementing
or completing projects; the need to add a new capacity to assist the city in
its marketing and economic development efforts; non-receipt of a grant
application for a digital highway sign; non-receipt of a board roster or list
of talent needs on the board to recruit new members; and ensuring city staff
was aware of when board meetings were being held.
received no response from the board, Adkins sent them a letter last month
asking for their resignations by Feb. 28 so a new board could be put in place.
MCVB bylaws, the board was required to have 12 members with seven members
required for quorum to conduct business. In 2016, the board decided to reduce
the number of board members to seven. Of that past board, there were five
members who were active. Four of them — Linda Moorman, Frank Wolz, Candace
Hunter and Frances Sack — submitted their resignations.
member, board treasurer Megan Repper, has agreed to stay on through March 31 to
help with the transition.
At its March
7 meeting, city council accepted the resignations of the past board and
appointed the new board members.
meeting, Adkins acknowledged the city did not give proper guidance to the MCVB
“We have not
given appropriate oversight, guidance and expectations to the convention and
visitors bureau and the result is that the board members, while great community
volunteers, simply lacked the knowledge of city expectations and broad
marketing expertise and the strategic planning needed to market the city in a
digital world,” Adkins told council. “That is a reflection on city staff.”
appreciate their time and effort in trying to execute a poorly defined plan with
almost no guidelines,” he said.
Wolz said he
felt the MCVB had addressed the concerns raised by Adkins.
disappointed that the change came so abruptly,” he said. “The former board
members were very dedicated and intent on helping the city. We would have liked
to have continued. We hope they’re (the city) on the right track for the CVB
2016, the MCVB board subcontracted with the Butler County Visitors Bureau to
assist in the marketing of the city to visitors.
executive director of the Butler County Visitors Bureau, said both
organizations had a good working relationship over those eight years and was
unaware of any issues.
(CVB) decided that they wanted to explore and try some things on their own,”
Hecquet said of the decision to part ways in early 2016.
He said the
BCVB had a $60,000 contract to help the MCVB leverage its dollars to help
promote the city.
While a small
portion of Middletown is in Warren County,
Phil Smith, president and CEO of the Warren County Convention and Visitors
Bureau, said his organization had never had a relationship with the Middletown
to anyone,” Smith said. “My door is always open.”
The MCVB “is
morphing in a new direction,” said Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan, who has
served as council’s liaison to the MCVB for the past year.
another phase and being strategic with money to help attract new events, new
residents, new visitors and new businesses,” he said.
of Miss Selby’s Soaps on Central Avenue said she hopes the MCVB works to
promote downtown, where she opened her business four years ago.
“I think they
need to let all of Middletown and outside of Middletown know what downtown has
to offer such as entertainment, shopping and restaurants and that it’s a safe,
fun place to enjoy,” she said.
the new board is going to step back and look at the best practices of cities
Middletown’s size and re-evaluate relationships with the Butler and Warren
county visitors boards.
“We have an
open canvas and there’s lots we can do,” she said. “I don’t see barriers, but
we just need to get the work done.”
NEW LEADERSHIP AT MIDDLETOWN
City Council has appointed 11 new members to its 12-member Convention and
Visitors Bureau board of trustees:
Adams, background in journalism and public relations
Baldwin, director of digital strategy for Rockfish
Glaser, owner of The Windamere event center
Hanavan, has 17 years of marketing and communications experience working
Hurley, local attorney with a knowledge of non-profit boards
Langhorne, an entrepreneur who sold his business to a private equity
company and has moved back to Middletown.
Levingston, site manager of public and community relations for Atrium Medical Center
Mulligan, attorney, former member of Middletown City Council and the MCVB
Pearce, president/CEO of The Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton
- Deanna Shores, former Middletown Board of Education member
Vitori, local entrepreneur, owner of Torchlight Pass
and led a branding and strategic communications firm for 10 years
member of the board currently is Megan Repper, the previous board’s treasurer.
She has agreed to stay on through March 31 to provide continuity to any bills,
grants or contracts that need to be executed at the board’s request. Upon her
resignation, the MCVB board will fill her seat.
Director Mark Schutte is only other person associated with the past board