City council awards visitors center contract to AJ chamber

AZ-EV AJLOGO

 

The Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce has been awarded the contract to operate the city of Apache Junction’s visitors center for another year.

At its Oct. 6 regular meeting, the Apache Junction City Council voted 7-0 to approve the professional services agreement between the city and the chamber. All council members were present at the meeting. They were: Mayor John Insalaco, Vice Mayor Robin Barker, Gail Evans, Christa Rizzi, Jeff Serdy, Dave Waldron and Chip Wilson.

The contract pays the recipient up to $41,000 annually to operate the visitors center, which serves current and prospective residents and visitors with information about the Apache Junction area, according to information in the council packet. It will be in effect through June 30, 2016.

The chamber operates the visitors center from its office at 567 W. Apache Trail in Apache Junction. About 35,000 people visit the chamber and visitors center a year, Carol Kauscher, a chamber volunteer, said during a phone interview.

The action will be placed on the consent agenda for the council’s Oct. 20 meeting for a final vote. A consent agenda includes items that do not require further discussion by the council, according to information posted on the council’s regular meeting agenda.

The city first issued an invitation for applications on April 15. At that time the proposed contract was for three years.

The chamber was one of two groups to apply. In June 1960 the chamber incorporated for the purpose of fostering and promoting social, economic, commercial, industrial, agricultural and civic interests of the area of Apache Junction, Pinal County, Arizona and its trade area, according to its website.

The second applicant was the Superstition Mountains Regional Business Alliance. It was formed in August to provide all local and regional businesses with an option for business support and to stimulate growth, according to an information packet provided to the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent.

At the city council’s July 21 meeting, council members rejected both bids for the three-year contract and instructed city staff to issue invitations to submit applications for a one-year contract. Again, two groups applied — the chamber and the alliance.

The second round of applications was reviewed by a six-person committee whose members looked at five factors: venue, experience, marketing, business promotion and accountability/reporting, Janine Solley, the city’s economic development administrator, told the council during her presentation at the Oct. 5 work session. She told the council that both applications had some strong elements. In the final scoring, out of a possible 100 points total, the chamber received 88.33 points and the alliance received 65.83.

Ms. Solley said the chamber scored higher for several reasons. They included its venue and visibility in downtown Apache Junction and relationship with the Arizona Office of Tourism. Also, it has an existing and experienced volunteer base of up to 25 volunteers during peak season, according to the chamber’s application. It has a number of marketing tools, such as videos, brochures and a website, and is designated as a Local Visitor Information Center by the Arizona Office of Tourism.

Councilwoman Christa Rizzi asked Ms. Solley for more information about the alliance. Ms. Rizzi said the topic was difficult to discuss because the application process was prompted by some concerns about the chamber that had to be addressed, but she did not elaborate on those concerns.

“Sometimes change is good,” Ms. Rizzi said.

Earlier this year, the chamber hired a human resources consultant to hear employee grievances and review human resources practices, Aaron McDermid, chairman of the chamber’s executive committee, confirmed to the Independent during an interview. He attributed the problems to “growing pains” within the chamber.

Ms. Solley told the council the selection committee liked many of the marketing and social media ideas proposed by the alliance in its application. The ideas included the creation of smartphone apps for winter visitors, a shop local plan and a scan card.

Prior to the vote, Ms. Rizzi said the council might want to stay where it’s at with the chamber but give the alliance an opportunity over the next year to grow and come back and try again.
Harvey Clark, executive director of the alliance and a former chamber employee, said during an interview that he appreciated Ms. Solley’s recognition of his group’s ideas.

Mike Lamb, marketing director for the alliance, said during a phone interview he submitted the application because he felt his group’s expertise in business and marketing would benefit the city.
“We believe there is tremendous growth opportunity here,” Mr. Lamb said. “It’s always a good idea to have a competitive spirit with the new ideas and forward-thinking that come from the collaborative efforts of many people.”

Editor’s note: Greg Tock, publisher of the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon Independent, is a member of the Apache Junction Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Reach staff writer Wendy Miller at wmiller@newszap.com

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