Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce officials said they reduced their annual request from the city government by $150,000 to help offset the financial burdens stemming from the coronavirus pandemic.
The chamber, which is a not-for-profit organization that gets part of its funding from the city government for econmic developent, is requesting $383,080 in 2021. That is a 28% decrease from the $533,080 requested in 2020.
Manhattan city commissioners listened to the chamber’s budget request during a Tuesday work session. They took no action.
The chamber, which is funded through the economic development fund, plans to use its requested funds for entrepreneurial services, military relations and work force development, among other initiatives.
Janet Nichols, military community liaison with the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, presented the military relations budget request of $40,000 to the commission.
Commissioner Wynn Butler asked the chamber what would happen if the city did not distribute that funding in 2021.
“I don’t know that we would be able to maintain the program with a full-time person if we didn’t get the funding,” said Jason Smith, chamber CEO and president. “Obviously we’d consider it and look at it if it were a part of a budget cut. ... Certainly you wouldn’t be able to have the same kind of programs.”
The Manhattan Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (CVB) requested $924,708 from the tourism and convention promotion fund. CVB is funded through hotel “bed tax” collections; transient guest tax collections are estimated at $1.38 million for 2021, officials said.
CVB estimates a 30% reduction or $600,000 in the transient guest tax collections for 2021.
In addition, the Manhattan Conference Center is in its final stages of construction, said Karen Hibbard, CVB director. Hibbard said the grand reopening date is planned in August.
Commissioners also talked budget cuts. Butler said he wants to continue to fund business districts such as Downtown Manhattan and Aggieville Business Association, as those are his priorities.
Additionally, Mayor Usha Reddi advocated for increased diversity within the chamber membership to include more people of color, women and young people. She said she wants to have a conversation on possibly making new groups or better informing the public of opportunities within the chamber.
“(People are) coming here, trying to set up business, but they don’t have any support systems, and then they fail, and then they leave,” she said. “And that’s what we don’t want to see. We want to see how we can support and keep them here, and that’s what the future is going to look like. The future is not going to look like us right here; it’s going to look very different. We want to make sure we give them some roots to hold onto so they can grow as well.”
Commissioners will continue to have work sessions this summer as they shape the budget.