Should the City Fund For-Profit Events?
I just want to start this off by saying I'm all for fun events and the city investing in "quality of life" ventures. Now, if you guessed that there is a big BUT coming, then you are 100% correct. I don't see the benefit of a city dumping cash and resources into events that are only marginally successful and/or don't have a proven track record of truly helping a city grow.
Here's what sparked this whole conversation: at Tuesday's Shreveport City Council Meeting, Matt Snyder, organizer of Crawfest, requested that the city cover roughly 20% of his hard costs (i.e. SPAR, Security, Barriers, Tables, etc.). That comes out to roughly $20,000. Snyder, when pressed by Councilwoman LeVette Fuller on why the city should help fund an event designed to make money, Snyder said it added to the flavor of the city...and if they didn't and something went wrong, he could lose his house.
Ok...the two things I have an issue with: A) if an event you are running and funding may cause you to lose everything you have, maybe you should run it differently or call the whole thing off. B) Since Snyder is asking for city money/services, I kind of would like to see what return on investment the city is getting.
I can think of several for profit events that get no help from the city and have a huge economic impact on the area. And there is actual proof these events bring in that kind of money and tourism. If anything, those are the events the city should help "fund" and help grow.
The best answer Snyder could provide is that every year Crawfest has grown (it is in year 3, by the way), he's expanded it to two days and he hopes and expects more people will show up this year. Now, I may be wrong, but during his pitch I never saw any proof of a large economic or tourism impact. I heard him say in one breathe that he expects 10 thousand more people this year and in the next, if it rains, he may lose everything he has. Look...I'm not trying to single Matt Snyder out, he just happened to be the guy asking for money yesterday and kicked off the debate.
Now, to be fair, if Crawfest nets more than 20 thousand dollars, then Snyder has to pay 15 thousand back to the city. Which, all in all, isn't too bad. Again, if it ends up only being 5 grand, most of which comes back to the city to pay SPAR or Shreveport Police, then cool. That's awesome. I'm all for that. Five thousand dollars is a drop in the bucket. But 20 grand is a little much for me...especially, again, when there's no proof that this thing in going to bring in lots of folks from out of town.
I don't want this to sound like I'm picking on anyone or running Matt Snyder down. I rather enjoy several of his events including Derby Day and Crawfest. I'm not mad at him. I don't want him to be discouraged from doing cool stuff in our city. I'm just saying that if you want a huge chunk of city money (i.e. my money), I want some proof that it is worth whatever you're asking for and will draw people in from outside our area.