Council defers vote for marketing path

BLYTHEWOOD – In a special called meeting Wed., Dec. 16, Blythewood town council continued to wrangle over how to spend 30 percent of state accommodations tax revenue that is required by state law to be allocated to a non-profit entity for promotion and publicity for the Town.

After an executive session discussion about whether to hire the firm MPA Strategies to market the town, Donald Brock made the motion to defer action until the Jan. 25 meeting when it would appear on the agenda as an action item. He further moved to extend an RFP (Request for Proposal), effective Jan. 2 – Jan. 15, 2020, for marketing and advertising for the Town of Blythewood. That motion was approved with a 5-0 vote.

At issue is whether to continue giving the 30 percent state accommodation tax revenue to a non-profit to handle Blythewood’s marketing or to contract through a non-profit for a firm of the Town’s choosing that would focus on Blythewood’s particular marketing/branding needs. The statute does not allow for the town government to hire a firm directly with the 30 percent funds. The 30 percent funds must go to a non-profit to either do the work or to farm it out.

Last year, council gave the 30 percent, which then amounted to $26,000 to Columbia One, a non-profit that promotes the City of Columbia. The money was to be spent to promote Blythewood. However during the meeting on Wednesday, Mayor Bryan Franklin termed the allocation to Columbia One as “wasting our money.”

At a Dec. 9 special called meeting, Councilman Donald Brock suggested the town should control its own marketing by contracting – either directly or through a non-profit – a professional marketing firm that would focus on Blythewood’s specific marketing needs – public relations, marketing, advertising, press releases as well as branding. To that end, he introduced Ashley Hunter, owner of MPA Strategies, who presented to council three different levels of service – basic, enhanced and full service which would include grant writing as well. MPA’s municipal clients include Greenville, City of Casey and Florence.

“I’m not against this,” Councilman Eddie Baughman countered, “but Blythewood’s brand has been strong since 1879. Blythewood sells itself. We have social media, we have our website, we have basically everything.”

Thirty percent of the Town’s state accommodation tax revenue that would be allocated next year for marketing is estimated by Franklin to be about $40,000.