Mike Schiel

Deschutes County voters have been given a golden opportunity to protect and enhance the investment the taxpayers have made in building the Fair & Expo Center.

I am asking you to vote yes on the 1 percent increase in the county room tax (Measure 9-96) on the Nov. 5 ballot.

Visitors to Deschutes County will pay this increase and not county residents. Your county commissioners voted unanimously (3-0) to put this on the ballot. COVA (Central Oregon Visitors Association) is supporting this increase. These supporters and others clearly realize how important and vital the Fair & Expo is to our economy. In just 2012 alone, the Fair & Expo had a $29.3 million economic impact on our economy. Since 2002, when we began tracking the economic impact from events at the Fair & Expo, that total comes to $378.2 million; that doesn’t include the first three years the facility was open and it doesn’t include the impact of 14 annual fairs. It is more than a conservative estimate to say that the economic impact over those years is well over $400 million.

State law requires that 70 percent of any room tax increase must go to tourism or a tourism-related facility. This measure dedicates 70 percent of the total directly to the Fair & Expo Center for the purpose of marketing.

The state law also earmarks the remaining 30 percent for the taxing entity, in this case, the county, which can use it in the best way it sees fit. The estimated funds from this increase that will go to the Fair & Expo will be about $350,000.

The funds will allow us to implement a marketing effort, including:

• Growing state, regional, national and international markets, which will bring more visitors who will stay overnight, boosting the economy and increasing room tax collections;

• Updated marketing materials.

• Expand our marketing photo and video library.

• More advertising and new signage for the Fair & Expo RV Park;

• A new website and interactive marketing, video, social media and increased public relations.

• Expand the reach of our current marketing efforts.

• More community partnerships;

• More sponsorships.

• Secure more convention and meeting business.

• Secure more national RV and motorcycle rallies.

It’s also important to consider the long list of annual, free and discounted uses the Fair & Expo provides:

• 4-H, FFA, and equestrian: $62,000.

• State, county, and city police trainings: $16,000.

• High school graduations: $30,000.

• Oregon Youth ChalleNGe graduations: $12,000.

• Nonprofit, miscellaneous and other discounts: $380,000.

• Redmond Park and Recreation 4th of July celebration: $23,000.

• Project Connect: $41,000.

• Memorial services: about $564,000.

The proposed increase applies only to the hotels and resorts in the unincorporated areas of the county and does not apply to lodging facilities within cities (Bend, Redmond, Sisters and La Pine). Specifically, this increase in the county room tax (Measure 9-96) does not add to or affect the city of Bend proposed room tax increase (Measure 9-94) or vice versa.

Again, visitors will pay this increase and not county residents. A yes vote protects and enhances the investment made to build the Fair & Expo Center and will bring even more events and economic impact to our economy.

Your county commissioners, the Central Oregon Visitors Association, Bend Mayor Pro-tem Jodie Barram, Bend City Councilor Mark Capell, Redmond Mayor George Endicott and the Redmond City Council, The Redmond Chamber of Commerce & Convention Visitors Bureau, and of course, the County Fair Board all support this increase.

Please vote yes for the 1 percent room tax increase (Measure 9-96.It) will be a huge benefit to the future of the center. It’s our home; it’s our investment; it’s our economic future.