SPEARFISH, S.D. — Some changes may be coming to the City of Spearfish, but not if local business owners have anything to say about it.
The City of Spearfish is considering cutting the funding for destination organization, Visit Spearfish in half, by diverting funding to a new sports complex. The majority of the organization’s funding is derived from hospitality taxes, which if not received, would negatively affect not only Visit Spearfish, but local businesses, and the community as a whole.
“It was probably about two or three weeks notice, that it started showing up that we were not going to get any of the hospitality tax funding,” said the President of Visit Spearfish, Mark Kazmer. “And that’s just a game-changer for Visit Spearfish.”
Kazmer said 2019 was a record year for Spearfish, and Visit Spearfish requested similar funding for 2021, hoping to outdo the previous year. So it was a surprise to learn they would not be receiving a portion of much-needed funding, and while city officials say their intent is not to de-fund Visit Spearfish, business owners believe cutting the budget on such short notice is exactly what would happen.
Intent aside, the organization has been largely responsible for keeping many local businesses afloat during the pandemic.
“Our ability to recover from COVID has been greatly influenced and increased by the tourists that Visit Spearfish has brought here,” said Kelly Gould, Co-Owner of Two Broke Girls Boutique.
Business owners say they would not have the success they’ve had through the summer, without Visit Spearfish, and would likely have to let go of their staff, or permanently shut their doors. Spearfish has thrived over the summer, and without proper marketing and promotion, business owners are concerned about having to close their doors, which would also impact residents of Spearfish.
They would lose the ability to get the goods and services needed on a local level, forcing them to commute. Despite the negative affects the budget cut would have on local businesses, owners are still aware that city leaders want to optimize the funds for the entire city.
“We understand that funding is always a fluid issue and that especially with this year, funds can be tight,” said Doris Cardwell, a member of the Spearfish Downtown Business Association. “But Visit Spearfish is such a vital part of our downtown community. Visit Spearfish markets Spearfish all across the country, they bring in events and organizations.”
Although small businesses may seem to be thriving, owners say they would not be able to replicate the marketing businesses receive from Visit Spearfish at no cost, and that the services provided are vital to their survival. Aside from businesses, Visit Spearfish also promotes the community, and part of the growth within the city can be traced to top-notch marketing.
“There’s so many things that tourism organization does, that’s is not just bringing mom, dad and the kids for a weekend in the hills. It’s selling the community of Spearfish, Kazmer said.”
A final decision has not been reached, but the city council will be meeting to discuss what will be done about Visit Spearfish.