|By Charles Oliver, The Daily Citizen,
Dalton, Ga.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
May 30, 2008 - A deal that would have brought a hotel to the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center has died.
The trade center board signed a letter of intent with developer John Q. Hammons last year to build a full service hotel attached to the trade center. But board members said Thursday Gov. Sonny Perdue's veto earlier this month of a bill to create tax credits for tourism-related projects killed the deal.
Board member Dan Rogers contacted a site locator for Hammons after Perdue announced his veto of the bill, which could have cut millions of dollars from the cost of the project, to see if there was still interest in the deal.
"We asked the question 'Should we come see Mr. Hammons,' and the answer we received was 'No, not at this time,'" Rogers said. "The tax incentive was very attractive to the Hammons organization, and when that was vetoed, that really was a detrimental blow."
When vetoing the bill, Perdue indicated that tax credits for such projects should be decided by the Legislature on a case-by-case basis.
Board member Charlie Bethel said local officials should work with Whitfield County's delegation to the General Assembly and with the governor to see if they would approve a bill that creates targeted tax breaks for a trade center hotel.
Board chairman Harvey Neal said board members would go back to some of the other developers that expressed an interest in building a hotel at the trade center to see if they are still interested.
The board also accepted a proposal from Global Spectrum, a Philadelphia-based manager of public facilities, to perform an operational audit of the trade center.
"It will give us a broader view, regionally and perhaps even nationally, of how we compare to other facilities our size," said Neal.
The exact scope of the audit hasn't been determined, but board members said they expected it would take about 30 days and cost about $25,000.
Board members also approved a proposal from former Dalton-Whitfield Chamber of Commerce president George Woodward to help them conduct a strategic review of the trade center.
"George is going to help facilitate our retreat. That's one big part of what he's going to be doing," said Neal. "The second thing is he's going to be looking at our local marketing. He's even going to be working to a limited degree with the (Dalton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau)."
Neal said the total costs of that proposal would be about $8,000.
Neal said one of the major goals of the strategic review will be to help board members determine what they are looking for in the trade center's next executive director to replace Rick Tanner, who resigned in March. Neal said board members hope to hold their retreat within the next 30-45 days.
Interim executive director Doug Phipps reported that both revenue and costs were down on the year for April. Revenue dropped to $93,054 from $130,747. Costs dropped to $171,862 from $200,653. The number of events held at the trade center plunged to 36 from 50.
Convention and Visitors Bureau executive director Margaret Thigpen updated board members on efforts to develop new bylaws for the agency, which is in the process of splitting from the trade center.
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