After reading about Visit Lake Norman in the Herald Weekly last week, I feel compelled to respond to this article and to some of the comments attributed to Huntersville Commissioner Ron Julian.
As a board member of Visit Lake Norman, the region’s travel and tourism authority, I was elected to represent business interests for the organization. I have operated several successful businesses in the region and continue to be active in commercial and residential real estate brokerage. In addition I am devoting part of my time as a counselor with SCORE, a resource partner of the Small Business Administration advising area businesses from startups to established operations .
While Visit Lake Norman’s mission is to recruit events to the lake region which produce room nights at area hotels and generates visitor’s spending, it is important that it operates efficiently.
It is interesting to note that Commissioner Julian never questioned the relevancy of Visit Lake Norman while he served on the board of the organization or brought before the board any of the complaints that he now has.
First, let me make clear: Visit Lake Norman is NOT funded by the towns of Lake Norman. It is funded by the State of North Carolina from taxes collected on hotel room nights and restaurant receipts in our towns, legislated with the express purpose of funding convention- and visitors-related activities. The towns are the conduit chosen by the legislature to make the funds available. When Mr. Julian refers to “taxpayer dollars,” he neglects to mention that the bulk of these dollars are paid by out-of-town visitors who stay in our hotels and are not a part of our local tax burden.
Not too long ago, all the funds from these taxes were going to the Charlotte Visitors Authority, and it was only after the intensive lobbying by the Lake Norman Chamber that any part of these monies are coming back to us. I do not hear him complaining about the money that is collected here and still going to Charlotte.
If anyone wants to understand the true nature and contribution of Visit Lake Norman, they should speak to our hotel owners, restaurateurs and retail businesses. They are the true beneficiaries and will gladly attest to it.
VLN Executive Director Sally Ashworth runs a tight, business-like ship. She has developed relationships with nationally renown amateur sports organizations and statewide travel and tourism partners.
Commissioner Julian has also criticized Visit Lake Norman for its relationship with the Lake Norman Chamber and for the dollars it spends for the space to operate the Visitors Center and house the administrative offices. As a licensed commercial Realtor, I can attest that this leasing arrangement is not only fair market value but is a great deal for both sides. There is tremendous synergy between Visit Lake Norman and the chamber to the benefit of our region’s businesses and residents. It is a true partnership that capitalizes on the strengths of both organizations saving operational dollars while promoting our region and showcasing its offerings.
I feel privileged to serve on the board of a dynamic organization that makes a huge difference in the life of our growing and diverse region.
It is very disappointing when local politicians abandon logic and ignore proven return on investment for some hidden agenda known only to themselves.
– John Kurti, Cornelius