On the heels of a successful effort to double a room occupancy tax that funds county marketing efforts, the Sampson County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) has unveiled a grant program that will funnel some of that money into capital projects at local nonprofit visitor attractions in order to boost tourism.
On Tuesday, the Sampson CVB’s Board of Directors approved the implementation of the CVB’s Capital Grant Program, which will allow the CVB to award capital grant funding to organizations whose projects are designed to attract visitors to Sampson County by enhancing or restoring existing structures and attractions and developing new ones.
The application process for the inaugural capital grant cycle will start today (Thursday).
Capital grant funds may be granted for projects such as new brick and mortar construction; maintenance and preservation of historic attractions; cultural and historical acquisitions; and conservation of artifacts or other infrastructure that improves the CVB’s ability to promote tourism in Sampson.
“Primary consideration will be given to those projects that have the greatest potential for positive economic impact for tourism within the county,” said Sheila Barefoot, director of the Sampson CVB. “Highest priority will be given to those projects which are more likely to promote and generate travel from outside Sampson County and that lead to overnight stays among our local lodging establishments.”
Organizations that may apply for the grant funding include any legally chartered 501(c)(3) nonprofit Sampson organization or chartered municipality representing a visitor attraction that includes tourism promotion among its major activities.
“Projects performed under the (capital grant program) must be for travel and tourism development only and may not contain or include elements not related to destination development,” CVB board member and chairwoman Julie Stadig noted. “All projects approved for funding must prove that they attract and serve visitors to Sampson County as their primary purpose.”
Assorted documentation, including federal identification number, budget, tax status and organizational purpose, are required with all applications. The organization applying for funds must show that they own the property or provide proper documents for a permanent easement at the site, including ingress and egress.
The CVB’s program will use a matching grant formula, providing a dollar for each dollar spent by the nonprofit, up to $50,000 per project. Due to the potential number of grant applications, the full amount of an organization’s grant request may not be awarded. It is anticipated that typical grant awards may average between $5,000 and $10,000.
The Sampson CVB Capital Grant Program has a cap of $50,000 per organization. Once that amount has been distributed to a particular organization, that organization must sit out of the grant application process for a period of three years. Additionally, multiple nonprofits may not apply to receive funding for the same project.
The CVB will process capital grant applications twice per fiscal year — August and January — or until the annual allocation is exhausted.
Applications for the August cycle may be submitted for consideration from July 1 until July 30, and for the January cycle from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31 — a cycle that will begin today (Thursday).
Grant applicants must contain the written approval or a formal resolution of the organizations governing board, and include relevant municipal government endorsement, and a list providing other individuals or organizations that have made contributions to the proposed project.
The funding for the grant program is provided through room occupancy taxes collected by Sampson’s lodging establishments. The CVB will allocate 33 percent of all occupancy taxes collected to the grant program on an annual basis. The CVB can spend no more than $28,572 during fiscal year 2017-18 on capital projects, CVB officials said.
Occupancy tax collections under the 3 percent levy for 2016-17 generated $97,555, an amount that has steadily risen in recent years. With a new 6 percent levy, that is expected to rise substantially in the coming years.
The development of the grant program is another step in the right direction for the county’s tourism industry, CVB officials said.
During the past year, the CVB contracted with Magellan Strategy Group to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to identify the county’s strengths and weaknesses as related to tourism and tourism development and to create a roadmap that would allow the CVB to meet the objectives identified.
Key among those objectives was the hike in the room occupancy tax rate from 3 to 6 percent, which was green-lighted by commissioners in October and legislative approval was given earlier this year. Now, with the grant program, they are closer to ticking off another box and moving forward to the next goal.
“Since the strategic plan was adopted,” Stadig attested, “two of the primary goals identified in the strategic plan have now been achieved.”
For more information or details about the CVB’s Capital Grant Program or to receive grant guidelines and applications, contact Sheila Barefoot at 910-592-2557 or via email at [email protected] The Sampson County CVB’s offices are inside the Sampson County Exposition Center, located at 414 Warsaw Road, Clinton.