Friday, August 29, 2014

Visit Indy Board Member and Former Ballard Chief Of Staff Wants More State Subsidies For Downtown Convention Business

UPDATE: Apparently the downtown mafia is not satisfied that state taxpayers are carrying their share of the burden in propping up Indianapolis' downtown convention business if the musings of Chris Cotterill, former chief of staff to Mayor Greg Ballard and Visit Indy board member, are any indication. Cotterill, a lobbyist for Faegre Baker Daniels, blogs about the state needing to "invest a little to make a lot more." Some online survey claims that Indianapolis is the number one convention city in America so that's further impetus for remaining on top, or so the argument goes.

Cotterill wants the state to establish an "event incentive fund" that would make millions of state tax dollars available in the form of a grant every year that the CIB and Visit Indy could tap to offer incentives to lure even more conventions to Indianapolis. Texas has such a fund so it must be a good idea according to Cotterill. In addition, Cotterill says the convention center needs to be expanded again for the umpteenth time to keep up with the Joneses. Current occupancy is running at about 65%, but that's supposedly a high occupancy rate by industry standards. Cotterill says the plans already exist for an expansion of the convention center, which is interesting because during a recent meeting of the CIB, the municipal corporation's CEO, Barney Levengood, claimed there were no current plans for expanding the convention center. Cotterill thinks the state should provide an extra $20 million to the CIB for convention center expansion by making a one-time bump in the annual subsidy the state provides to the CIB. "That's a rounding error to a state budget surplus of $2 billion, but we don't have to dip into the state's reserves."

Here's what I think of Cotterill's snot-nosed idea.

Here's some additional trivia about the salaries earned by Visit Indy's top executives according to their 2012 tax return:

Leonard Hoops, CEO (Salary-$422,000, Bonus-$55,000)--$477,000
Susan Townsend, Sr. VP, Visitor Experience (Salary-$153,000, Bonus-$28,600)--$181,600
Michelle Travis, Sr. VP, Sales (Salary-$263,000, Bonus-$42,000)--$305,000
James Wallis, Executive VP (Salary-$223,000, Bonus-$42,000)--$265,000
Matthew Carter, VP, Market Intelligence (Salary-$154,000, Bonus-$37,000)--$191,000
Dustin Arnheim, Director, Convention Sales (Salary-$138,000, Bonus-$34,000)--$172,000
Janet Arnold, VP, Partner Relationships (Salary-$173,000, Bonus-$33,000)--$206,000
Christopher Gahl, VP, Marketing/Communications (Salary-$117,000, Bonus-$32,000)--$149,000
Mary Huggard, VP, Tourism Development (Salary-$129,000, Bonus-$21,000--$150,000

Keep in mind that this doesn't include their lavish travel and entertainment allowance. If you saw how much these people get to spend eating out at the best restaurants and staying at luxury hotels all over this country, in addition to the special events entertaining they get to do with our tax dollars, you would be appalled. Their board members are entangled in conflicts of interest. Visit Indy spend tens of thousand entertaining at Pacers' games. Of course, Pacers Sports & Entertainment's President, Jim Morris, also serves on their board. They spend over $120,000 a year at the IMS at the same time the IMS' then-President Jeff Belskus served on their board. They spent another $70,000 on Maribeth Smith & Associates where another board member works, Ellen Saul. They've got at least a $15 million budget, more than a third of which is spent on entertainment-travel related expenses.


Flogger said...

Perhaps Chris Cotterill could pass the hat around to Downtown Businesses and let them out of their own pockets fund his plan.

Why should businesses or Tax Payers that are not Downtown pick up the freight on this??

Does the Convention Center really turn a Profit once all the construction costs, and maintenance costs are factored in???

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know the salaries of Visit Indy employees?

Gary R. Welsh said...

I've heard that with bonuses they have a number of employees earning six-figure salaries. Leonard Hoops earns close to $500,000 a year. They have another 8 employees earning between $150,000 to $300,000 a year when you factor in the bonuses they are paid. It's a total racket, particularly when you consider the poverty-level wages earned by most of the people working in the service industry that supposedly benefits so much from their activities.

Hernan Dough said...

Can't these folks find lifestyle relief er work on a utility board somewhere?

Unknown said...