heads together to decide how
to spend bridge dollars
to pay for tourism marketing
(August 2010) What would you do with a quarter
That may seem like a question posed on a TV show such as Who Wants
to Be a Millionaire? But the City of Madison is about to receive
such a sum to help with tourism marketing as part of the economic mitigation
to offset negative impacts from the pending closure of the Milton-Madison
Bridge during the superstructure replacement project. In fact, it is
only part of a larger amount of money being provided through the project
funding to help ease the pain of the economic impact to the area.
to the City of Madison for tourism marketing
$40,000 to the City of Milton, Ky., for tourism and promotional
$80,000 to the City of Madison hire a Historic Preservation
Office for a period of two years at $40,000 per year for the purpose
of securing grants and other financial assistance to preserve
the citys National Landmark District
$80,000 to the Madison Main Street Program to develop initiatives
to help offset negative economic impacts to local businesses over
a period of two years ($40,000 per year)
Source: Memoranda of Agreement (full document available online
Although it is still unknown when exactly the bridge will
close until the contract is awarded in September and a work schedule
announced by the winning contractor, representatives of various entities
in Madison, including tourism, have been meeting monthly for the past
four months to discuss their plans for how this money should be spent.
The group has become known as the Mitigation Committee, for lack of
a better name. It includes representatives from City Hall, the Madison
Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, Jefferson County Board of Tourism,
the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Partners,
Madison Main Street Program, Historic Madison Inc. and Cornerstone Society
The superstructure replacement project of the 80-year-old bridge, slated
to begin next year, has involved nearly two years of study, public meetings,
surveys and longterm negotiations between Kentucky and Indiana to find
the money to pay for the venture. After nearly a year of waiting for
up to $90 million in federal stimulus money to put toward the cost,
the project recently received only $20 million in federal dollars, with
the two states agreeing to split the remaining amount.
As part of the projected $131 million effort, a 16-page Memoranda of
Agreement, or working contract, was developed to establish the ground
rules between the two states at the local and state levels, and even
at the federal level. The agreement, signed in early June by all parties,
provides pots of money to various groups and initiatives, with tourism
marketing being the largest (see box on Page 4). Finalizing the agreement
was held up last spring when Kentuckys state budget negotiations
among legislators stalled and went into special session. Once the state
budget was approved, the money was freed for the bridge project, and
the agreement signed.
Despite so many loose ends at the time, such as time schedule for closing
the bridge and establishing the sources of money to pay for it, the
Mitigation Committee began meeting at City Hall. Jan Vetrhus, who chaired
the year-long planning and implementation of last years nine-day
Madison Bicentennial, was appointed by Madison Mayor Tim Armstrong to
lead the newly formed committee. He sat in on some meetings but chose
the citys Development Director Jenny Eggenspiller to represent
him on the committee.
While $205,000 may sound like a lot of money to most people, it
is not nearly enough to do what we need to do to help this community
during the bridge closure. It should have been more like 1 percent of
the project, or $1.3 million, said Vetrhus.
Nevertheless, Vetrhus said she is pleased with the progress of these
meetings because it keeps us all working together and focused.
She considers the initiative a wonderful opportunity, but we are
still in a very preliminary stage because we dont know yet when
we can actually start spending the money until we know the construction
by Don Ward
superstructure replacement project
is scheduled to begin in early 2010.
The Memoranda of Agreement, or MOA, contains the ground
rules for receiving and spending the economic impact dollars. It stipulates
that no money can be spent until eight months prior, and six months
after, the actual bridge closure not the just the beginning of
construction. Based on a projected timetable recently released by the
bridge consultants, the committee is speculating the bridge may close
in August or September 2011, thus allowing it to begin spending its
money as early as this January.
Bridge consultants say the bridge will be closed between nine and 12
months, and the MOA stipulates that it cannot be closed for more than
12 months. The estimated date for project completion is currently December
2012, however, a recent change to the bid package could extend that
date to May 2013, officials said.
Vetrhus says all decisions regarding how the economic impact money will
be spent will be made as a group. No one person will do this,
she said. Its a big job, and we only have one shot at doing
The task may be quantified when you consider that the towns current
tourism budget for advertising amounts to only $25,000 a year. Now armed
with a budget more than four times that size, We hope to spend
money to market our town in areas that the CVB normally doesnt
have the money to market to, Eggenspiller said.
The group plans to spend its budget in three ways, Vetrhus said. The
first initiative will be to advertise to the immediate region on how
people can get to Madison when the bridge first closes. A second portion
of money will pay for tourism advertising in cities as far north as
Dayton, Ohio, and Chicago, in an effort to entice new people to visit
Madison. These are people in northernmost cities who would not necessarily
have to cross the Ohio River to get to Madison. A third effort would
be to advertise when the newly constructed bridge re-opens.
As part of the project, $5 million is being spent to operate a two-vessel,
24-hour ferry service across the river free of charge during the months
that the bridge is closed. It is hoped that the ferry company itself
will also advertise its service, Vetrhus said.
It is critical that our commuters have a pleasant experience getting
to and from work or school on the ferry so they will talk it up to their
coworkers. If they have a bad experience, were done, she
Another immediate initiative will be to hire a firm to develop and implement
the marketing portion of the citys much ballyhooed Branding campaign.
This effort last year produced a 64-page Branding report by Seattle
consultant Roger Brooks at a cost of $50,000. The report offers recommendations
for the city to pursue in its branding of the town in its tourism marketing.
A separate Branding Committee formed soon after the report was released
and it continues to meet to discuss how the recommendations can be honed
and implemented. Eggenspiller, who sits on both committees, says it
is hoped a marketing firm can be hired as early as January to develop
the advertising campaign that will coincide with marketing of the bridge
Vetrhus said that once the bridge construction schedule is released,
perhaps as early as September or October, the Mitigation Committee plans
to hold some public meetings and become a much wider group.
John Carr of Wilbur Smith Associates and the lead consultant on the
bridge replacement project, said he was happy to hear that the Mitigation
Committee had formed and that local groups were meeting regularly to
plan well ahead of the projects start. Meeting now to develop
a good strategy shows theyre engaged and being very practical.
They can start thinking through these scenarios, he said. We
still have plenty of time, but as we move through this, theyll
have time to make adjustments.
Carr acknowledged that local officials may be inexperienced in managing
such a large marketing budget, but added, We believe the local
people best know their towns strengths and where their target
market of tourists is coming from, so we trust them to spend the money
wisely. They understand the needs of the community the best. And if
they want to hire an outside marketing firm to help them, they have
that right to do so.
Don Ward is the editor, publisher and owner
of RoundAbout. Call him at (812) 273-2259 or email: Don@RoundAbout.bz.
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