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As soon as Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling stopped talking, the 50 people attending Saturday's marketing summit at City Hall started.
Their enthusiasm was driven by a desire to connect with businesses and nonprofit organizations to collaborate on events and marketing, a new requirement for receiving accommodation tax grants.
The intent is not only for nonprofit groups to work together on planning events and fundraisers; the groups are also expected to partner with private businesses to "stretch" the a-tax grants.
For example, if a group receives a $10,000 grant, Keyserling hopes it will find corporate sponsors who will donate at least that much so twice the advertising and marketing can be purchased and Beaufort's name can be proclaimed louder and further away.
"It's not just about what ARTworks does, or the museum does, or CAPA does, or the rowers do," Keyserling said. "it's about the big picture."
The city has $196,000 to award, city manager Scott Dadson said. The accommodations tax, often referred to as a "bed tax," is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs that promote tourism and attract visitors from outside the area.
The grants are typically awarded in the fall, but changes to the process intended to encourage cooperation, focus and accountability delayed those awards.
Applicants also must now fit into at least one of four categories -- history and culture groups, events and festivals, the arts, or outdoor recreation.
"It's not done on a point basis, but we certainly give consideration to organizations that work together and with the (Designated Marketing Organization) to make sure the message that is going out about Beaufort is a cohesive message," said Jeff Evans, chairman of the Tourism Development Advisory Committee that makes grants recommendations to City Council.
To that end, the summit was held not only to explain the new process, but to give organizations the chance to meet, network and brainstorm.
Bruce Doneff of Friends of Hunting Island said he spoke with people Saturday about possible projects. Not all of them were focused around a-tax dollars. One plan he's working on is to buy passes for Hunting Island, with local hotels picking up half the cost, so the passes can be given to visitors. Another proposal centers on a driving tour with the Friends of Fort Freemont, Penn Center and other St. Helena-area attractions.
"There are a lot of creative things that can be done with this so its not just limited to nonprofit programs," Evans said.
Applications will be posted on the city's website soon and will be due back at a to-be-determined date at the end of February.
In general, grants will be given as reimbursements instead of upfront money, Evans said. Groups will need to show receipts, ad examples and other evidence that the money was spent to promote the area outside the 50-mile radius outlined by state law.
Robb Wells, tourism director for the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he will help groups work together and provide services such as mailings, promotion with travel writers and advertisements on beaufortsc.org, all with the goal of attracting new tourists to the city.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.