Kent city leaders hope to bring more tourists and businesses to town next year with grants to 23 groups worth a total of $500,600.
The city funds are from a 1 percent state tax on overnight hotel, motel, bed and breakfast and campground stays in Kent. State law dictates who is eligible to apply, and mandates the funds be used for marketing and promotion of business and leisure tourism.
The City Council, on recommendations from the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, awarded the largest grants to the city’s Visit Kent Annual Tourism Marketing Program ($96,500); the city’s Public Relations and Marketing for Economic Growth and Business Travel ($75,000); the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team ($63,555); and the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center ($60,000).
”This list of awards is a wonderful example of very strategic decision making on the part of the committee and the city,” Mayor Dana Ralph said at the Dec. 11 council meeting. “It speaks to all of the work we are doing to realigning the Kent Industrial Valley, promoting Kent as a place of innovation where businesses change the world – all of those things that we have been working on this year are represented on this list.
“Kent is not a tourism hub, but we have a lot of great business activity going on.”
The council agreed to award $30,000 to the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space job fair at Green River College’s Kent campus in conjunction with the National NewSpace Conference next summer in Renton. The event will focus on bringing students near graduation with an aerospace or astronautics background together with the space-sector workforce.
Thirty-three groups applied to the city, asking for $1.4 million. The committee picked 23 groups and awarded $500,600 out of a budget of $546,000.
“We purposely left some money on the table in case something comes in that is something we want to promote,” said Council President Bill Boyce, chair of the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee.
The committee is composed of hotel representatives from Best Western, Hampton and Wyndham, ShoWare Center general manager Tim Higgins, Kent Chamber of Commerce CEO Andrea Keikkala and Kent Downtown Partnership Executive Director Barbara Smith. The committee scored each application and met about four times to determine what groups to award and how much money to give them.
The Visit Kent Annual Tourism Marketing Program will use $96,500 to support the visitkent.com website as well as social media and media advertising to promote the city as a place to do business. This includes reaching out to markets in Spokane and Portland, according to the application.
The $75,000 for the city’s Marketing for Economic Growth will help showcase companies like Blue Origin and Boeing through local, regional and national media as well as space industry publications.
As the anchor tenant of the ShoWare Center, the Thunderbirds hockey team will spend $63,555 to promote the team through the visitkent.com website with television, radio and newspaper ads as well as social media throughout Western Washington as only 11.5 percent of the team’s fans live in Kent, according to the application.
Kent’s ShoWare Center will use $60,000 to bring in specific events, including funds for Glory Kickboxing, a promoter that books kickboxing competitions among elite fighters.
Lodging tax recipients
$96,500 – City leisure tourism marketing
$75,000 – City marketing for economic growth and business travel
$63,600 – Seattle Thunderbirds 2019-20 hockey season promotions (at ShoWare Center)
$60,000 – accesso ShoWare Center marketing and specific events
$30,000 – Students for the Exploration and Development of Space job fair in conjunction with National NewSpace Conference
$26,700 – Aerospace Futures Alliance and Washington State Space Coalition “Lift and Launch” event
$20,000 – City economic development and business recruitment website
$16,000 – Apollo 11 50th Anniversary Festival (at Green River College Kent campus)
$15,000 – Local space industry promotion event in conjunction with National New Space Conference
$12,500 – Kent Chamber of Commerce operations and tourism promotion
$10,000 – FIRST Washington’s Lego League and Tech Challenge State Championship (at ShoWare Center)
$10,000 – Kent Downtown Partnership’s website
$10,000 – PGA Washington Open Invitational (at Meridian Valley Country Club)
$9,700 – Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Cascade Chapter Symposium
$9,000 – Destination Moon: Weekend Family Workshops & Summer Fun
$8,600 – Aerospace Futures Alliance Aerospace Summit
$7,500 – Center for Advanced Manufacturing industry meetings and events
$6,300 – New Space Conference Kent promotion
$4,400 – National Main Street Conference, Kent Culinary Food Tour
$3,800 – Men’s Conference Dual USSSA Major (slowpitch softball at Hogan Park at Russell Road)
$2,900 – Highline (College) Golf Invitational (at Riverbend Golf Complex)
$2,000 – USA Softball Girls Fastpitch Tournaments (Service Club, Hogan Park fields)
$1,100 – Valley Cities Geocaching Adventure