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This is a verbatim transcription of a June 19, 2018 working meeting with Natalie Randall, Economic Development Director and the San Juan County Commission…Bruce Adams, Rebecca Benally, and Phil Lyman. Also present SJ County administrator Kelly Pehrson. Minutes and audio can be found here.

San Juan County Work Meeting, June 19, 2018

Natalie Randall: The big thing for tourism right now is the co-op grant is due in the next couple of few days. And so the co-op grant is where we can match our budget for additional funding. We’ve done small matches in the past of like $10,000 or less. This year we’re kind of pulling a big one. We’re doing a $400,000 campaign project. We already have $200,000 that were typically allocated in our budget for marketing, this type of marketing specifically so we want to capitalize on that. So just making you aware of it, because the state runs on a fiscal year and we’re on a calendar year. So my request…

Commission Bruce Adams: That comes from the state, right?

Randall: Yeah, that comes from the state.

Adams: Yeah, this is one that I brought up in the past that I thought we were missing the boat on because we were only looking at a $10,000 grant and I could see other counties were getting much, much more than…

Randall: So we’ve pulled together and organized a campaign. This campaign, we’re not saying no to international just for this specific campaign. We’re calling a Monumental Campaign. Focus is a monumental experience, a monumental vacation, kind of a play on words. But with our ad agency that we pulled on a lot of the metrics drive that this will be a successful draw. The markets that we’re looking at are California, specifically LA, Denver and Phoenix. We’re ranging everything from Facebook, Instagram, social, all the digital SCO side of things that we can continue to track adding to billboards into Denver that continue the same consistent message, and then extending to Hulu in Phoenix and California and then cable networks in Denver. The Hulu networks are interesting because you can track the demographic all the way down to the type of activity that the person wants to do or where they like to eat for dinner. Like types of restaurants they like. So we can really narrow down our target market. We’ve identified a primary and a secondary market within those states. The primary market that we’re looking at are ages 25-50 with 2-3 kids at home, income $60,000 and up. And then the secondary market are empty-nesters, 55 and up with a $200,000 net worth or $75,000 income. So we feel that that falls within line. We’ve canvased the entire county, we’ve met with the majority of the tourism businesses one-on-one. Everyone seems supportive of it. We’ve received letters of support from business owners in Bluff, met with Monument Valley yesterday at Gouldings, we’re receiving a letter of support from them. Met with Monticello businesses, Blanding businesses. So, across the county there’s a lot of support for the campaign and there’s excitement for it.

Commission Rebecca Benally: So is there any way to track how many tourists come to the county and how many days they stay here and has there been an increase? Has it sustained? Has it decreased within the last year?

Randall: So, the best tracking mechanism we’ve had until now is TRT. That’s the other project we’ve been working on out of our office. So what we’re onboarding next year, and starting in January, is Visa View. Visa View tracks any Visa card, both domestic and international that comes through our county lines. And then we can track back the user to their zip code, where they originated from, country code and even cities within countries. You can see their average daily spent. Typically you can then track like the stay because they continue using their card throughout.

Benally: Oh. Wow.

Randall: So that’s what we’ll metric. So this campaign is not based off of that, this campaign’s based off of what we’re seeing, interest into our area. And then looking into 2020 our next campaign will then focus in on, ok this is who we brought in to the area, now extending like the stay with those individuals. So we’re changing our metrics.

Benally: So you’re just developing the baseline information now?

Randall: Yeah, TRT’s the best way we could track before but there were a lot of guesses with that, too. Like property value, like an individual room rate could increase. We haven’t really had a huge influx up until now of properties expanding and growing, so the TRT has gone up, but there’s are a lot of assumptions that can be made of why that happened.

Benally: Yeah

Randall: But overall it is going up, so…continuously there’s a continuous trend of 10% increase.

Commissioner Phil Lyman: We’re on track for 2018 to see another 10%?

Randall: To continue…yeah, at this point we are.

Lyman: Ok. And does that include the restaurant tax?

Randall: Restaurant tax is down.

Lyman: Is it?

Randall: Yeah. And it’s been down, I think it’s down 14.5%. But last year it was down as well. I mean we had restaurants close. I wasn’t with the county then, but just seeing in Monticello the trends that were happening was less restaurants.

Kelly Pehrson: Yeah you had two in Monticello close.

Randall: And so that affects the restaurant tax for sure. But again, there’s kind of shift we see like Yak’s is open on Sundays now for brunch. Peace Tree’s onboarding. Another is Doug’s Ribs, he’s going to be open partway through the week for that. With Gristmill opening up a restaurant, so hopefully for 2018, we won’t be able to make up for that initial negative, but I think that the trend will continue to increase. But that’s also the other thing, working with the Blanding Area Travel Council, working with Bob, kind of what we’ve identified is almost a model of, from them we need to find out what the gaps are. What are the gaps and needs of the businesses in your community as you’re serving and meeting the expectations of visitors, a big thing, if they’re restaurants? And then from there, reaching out to the residents, is there anyone that wants to take on that need? And if there isn’t, then our office going out and recruiting, and bringing in outside business to do that. We’d like to keep it local first if possible, and then grow from there. The only thing with the, and I know this will have to come into commission meeting, but just a letter of support for the grant that we will be utilizing our $200,000 as a match. And I can draft part of that letter, but if we could just have a letter of support for that.

Adams: Do you want to just type up that letter, put our names on it and we’ll sign it, I think?

Randall: Ok. Yeah, I will do that and then bring it back to commission meeting today just so I can have it.

Adams: Yeah, just go ahead and write the letter and bring it in and we’ll sign it.

Randall: Ok. Thank you. Any other questions?

Lyman: Thanks.

Adams: Ok. Good report, Natalie.


Later in the day, the commissioners met to vote on the “Monumental” promotion. It was unanimous in support.

San Juan County Commission Meeting, June 19, 2018

Pehrson: Natalie has a support letter that she wants you guys to sign, talking about how we’re using some of our TRTs to match some of the state funds.

Adams: And I think this’ll increase us from the possibility of getting, from $10,000 to  $200,000. Right?

Pehrson: Correct.

Adams: Okay. Two letters?

Pehrson: Yeah.

Adams: Ok, do we have a motion?

Benally: Motion.

Adams: Ok, motion by Rebecca.

Lyman: Second

Adams: Second by Phil. All in favor say Aye.

All Commissioners: Aye

Adams: It’s unanimous.

Pehrson: I think it needs all three of your signatures.


From the official minutes for June 19, 2018:

“Kelly requested that commission sign a support letter indicating that the county will use some of the TRT money to match state funds. A motion to sign the letter was made by Commissioner Benally and 2nd by Commissioner Lyman. Voting was unanimous.”

Minutes and audio can be found here.

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