Thursday, April 24, 2014
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City supports a unified organization

County and other groups expected to follow suit

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[April 24, 2014]  City on board: Monday evening, the Lincoln City Council voted unanimously to endorse moving forward with a single, unified organization to promote Lincoln and Logan County. The single organization would bring together the Lincoln/Logan Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln & Logan County Development Partnership, Main Street Lincoln and the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County into one entity.

This decision came at the recommendation of the Unified Organization Committee, which has been meeting for the past several weeks. The recommendation was presented last week to the Logan County Board by Jan Schumacher and to the city of Lincoln by Mayor Keith Snyder, with both city and county being asked to endorse the recommendation so the committee may move forward to the next step of achieving this goal.

Chamber on board

On Tuesday evening, at their second meeting of the month, Andi Hake of the chamber told the board members of the tourism bureau that the chamber's board of directors has also endorsed the recommendation.

Tourism tentatively on board

The tourism bureau's board discussed the topic briefly. That board has two members who had not been informed of recent developments with the Unified Organization Committee. Hake volunteered to discuss this with them further at a later date. By a straw vote, it appeared that tourism will also endorse the plan at its next meeting.


On the city level, Snyder explained to aldermen what work has been done thus far, saying the committee studied the four organizations and looked at who the customer is in each group and how the group works to promote local business and attract visitors to the community.

He said the purpose of melding the four groups into one was to first eliminate redundancy of service. Working under one primary director, there will be greater unity of all four components, with each one filling specific roles.

The goal is to create a board of directors who are competency-based with knowledge in particular fields and can work as a whole.

At the tourism meeting, Hake said she perceived the future as being one organization with four subgroups. Therefore, the tourism bureau, for example, would be more of a committee and less of a board. The membership would consist of people who are knowledgeable and capable of leading efforts to promote all tourism in Logan County.

Snyder had told the city council that with the unified group, there would be a head director, but also as time progressed and finances were worked out, he could see this organization also having qualified staff who could work with the agency on the whole as well as the various parts.

Late last week Tom O'Donohue and Andy Anderson, who represent the city and county, respectively, on the tourism board, said they felt this was a good move that would help bring visitors to the Logan County community. O'Donohue added that he envisioned there being one staff member from the unified group who would work specifically with tourism and answer to the executive director and the unified board.

Anderson also indicated that while the vote has not yet been taken, he believes the county board is going to endorse the new, unified organization.

In discussion on the city side of the issue, Marty Neitzel seemed to be most concerned about the role of the chamber. She noted the chamber does great things in Lincoln and Logan County and is a membership-based organization. She told the council that she feels this can work, but it is going to be important that the chamber name still be represented in the unified organization.

When the motion came to a vote at city council Monday night, all eight members voted in favor. Neitzel did, however, qualify her vote, saying, "yes, as long as it is called the chamber."

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Consultant's report

In a report prepared by consultant Marit Peters and presented by Schumacher to the Logan County Board last week, one section identifies the current status of the various organizations involved as including the city and county. The report states among other things that the redundancy of services has made it unclear who is to champion the work of downtown revitalization and redevelopment. It also notes that community volunteers are spending their time on various boards and committees and wearing themselves thin trying to be a part of many things. It was also noted there is an issue with having a long-term, high-quality executive director for the tourism bureau and for the development partnership.

It notes that the work of Main Street Lincoln has been laid on one employee, and the organization works with a small budget. In another comment on Main Street, the report says the role of that organization is not to lead any specific strategic effort, but rather to be a supporter of a larger vision, and that the organization's reputation may alienate folks who are not brought into the brand.

It concludes by saying there does not appear to be a clear definition of success and results for each of the organizations, and that some do have strategic plans, while others do not.

Peters' report provides the Unified Organization Committee with a suggested vision statement and purpose statement.

It then outlines a recommendation for a board of directors, saying members should be competency-based, highly engaged, informed natural leaders who represent the county, the city, tourism, downtown, startup and business attraction, development and retention of business, health and wellness, education, public relations and communications, finance, and legal.

The report ends with a summary of financial support, saying that with the combined funding of the various organization budgets, there is enough money to provide for hiring competent, experienced, quality staff for the new organization.

For all the parties involved -- county, city, chamber, the development partnership, Main Street and the tourism bureau -- to endorse the suggestion of a unified organization is only the first step in what will be a process estimated to take several months.

When all the parties are behind the plan, the Unified Organization Committee will then move on to the next stages of implementation. To date, what those next steps will be has not been outlined for the public.



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