Making the Case for 1% Innkeeper’s Tax Increase in Allen County

By: John Sampson on August 1st, 2019

Tourism, Visits Essential for Marketing the Community to Talent

A modest increase in the Innkeeper’s Tax rate is critical to Northeast Indiana’s economic growth. Attracting tourists to our region and providing them with a first-hand experience of the community is essential to attracting talent to consider Northeast Indiana as a place to live and work.

A 2019 report, “Talent Wars: What People Look for in Jobs and Locations,” by Development Counsellors International (DCI), found that first-hand experience and word of mouth remain the dominant factors for forming community impressions. This result was also consistent with DCI’s 2017 report.

The report noted, “It’s clear the best way for talent to learn about locations is to visit the community themselves, underscoring the importance of tourism.”

When asked how their impressions of a community are formed, respondents ranked first-hand experience at 60 percent, with word of mouth representing 52 percent of respondents’ answers.

Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana offer vast opportunities to prospective talent— job opportunities, affordable cost of living, housing options—and we need increased investment in tourism marketing to continue to highlight our community as a best-in-class, destination market.

That’s not just an economic developer’s opinion, that is direct feedback from talent around the country.

The 2019 “Talent Wars” report also advised economic development organizations and tourism organizations to work together to promote their communities to a variety of audiences. “Market your community to inspire people to visit and collaborate with your local convention and visitors bureau (CVB) or destination marketing organization to understand how you can capitalize on each other’s efforts," the report noted.

Now, let us capitalize on our region’s collaboration, economic growth and quality of life through bold leadership and investment.

By increasing Allen County Innkeeper’s Tax rate from 7% to 8%, we can maximize marketing resources and increase Fort Wayne’s visibility nationally.  

Just this year, the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership began convening the regional CVB organizations to align messaging, share resources and attract talent and visitors to our region, together. This collaboration makes our organizations—and the region—stronger. We understand the importance of this partnership and alignment of goals, and that’s why we meet as a group regularly. So far, the CVB group launched CurrentNEI.com, a calendar of events throughout Northeast Indiana’s 11 counties. Read the press release to learn more about the website.

Workforce Growth Opportunity

After several years of service as a director on the board of Visit Fort Wayne, I stand in strong support of their remarkable efforts to represent Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne to attract major economic benefits through tourism in the Midwest market.

Under today’s economic climate, there is no more critical issue for employers than finding enough skilled workers to meet the demands of a rapidly expanding global marketplace. If our population base does not grow faster, employers will find other places in the country to create jobs and make capital investments of the future. 

Tourism plays an important role in exposing a community to possible future residents. Research like “Talent Wars” demonstrates that individuals who have a favorable impression of a community’s assets through tourism-based experiences like trade shows, conferences, amenities, restaurants and retail are far more likely to consider relocating to those communities.

In other words, if a community is worth visiting, it is also worthy of building a life and a profession. Investing in this 1% increase and expanding the marketing of our region is important to growing the population base.

Allen County’s low tax rate betrays the high value of our tourism amenities in Allen County, the City of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana. It places us in a clear competitive disadvantage when attracting current tourists and our future workforce.

Quality of Life Worthy of Marketing

The Regional Partnership, Greater Fort Wayne Inc. and the other 10 county economic development organizations have devoted significant time, energy and the resources of private and community investments in our Road to One Million (RTOM) plan for quality of place assets. 

In Northeast Indiana collectively, the state’s $42 million matching grant through the Regional Cities Initiative has been turned into $258 million of new, quality of place amenities throughout all 11 counties, with 60% of this investment in Allen County alone. However, these investments were intended to attract population growth. They cannot be effective to the critical needs of our region’s employers and communities if the shining light of our success is hidden under a “bushel basket” of Hoosier humility! 

We must let our light shine and market the beauty and welcoming nature of Allen County, the City of Fort Wayne and Northeast Indiana through aggressive and expanded marketing by Visit Fort Wayne and commensurate to the tremendous investment made by the public and private interests in the RTOM projects.

In summary, the Regional Partnership stands firmly behind this effort to benefit all tourism amenities and facilities of Allen County and the City of Fort Wayne. We can expect that this investment will pay returns to our region’s businesses and talent growth for years to come as we step up to the challenge of competing in a strong and growing tourism market. The quality of our communities and residents deserve a full return on the public and private investment in our quality of place assets.

We cannot overlook the impact tourism has to set the stage for a powerful and positive impression and reputation as a community worthy of consideration for relocations and the benefits that this will have on our future workforce.

I stand in support of raising the Allen County Innkeeper’s Tax rate from 7% to 8% and ask for local leaders to advance this investment in our community to enhance tourism’s economic impact and the critical role tourism plays in attracting our future workforce.