The1st meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism was held on Thursday, June 17, 2004, at 1:00 PM, in Room 149 of the Capitol Annex. Senator Katie Stine, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Members:Senator Katie Stine, Co-Chair; Representative Eddie Ballard, Co-Chair; Senators David Boswell, Julie Denton, Brett Guthrie, Alice Kerr, Vernie McGaha, Richard Roeding, and Damon Thayer; Representatives Royce Adams, Carolyn Belcher, Buddy Buckingham, Perry Clark, Tim Couch, Jesse Crenshaw, Bob DeWeese, Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, C.B. Embry Jr, Bill Farmer, Mary Harper, Thomas Kerr, Stan Lee, Thomas McKee, Brad Montell, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Tanya Pullin, Ancel Smith, Brandon Smith, John Will Stacy, Charles Walton, Mike Weaver, and Robin L. Webb.
Guests: Secretary James Host, Commerce Cabinet; Commissioner George Ward, Department of Parks; Commissioner Randy Fiveash, Department of Travel.
LRC Staff: John Buckner, Committee Staff Administrator; Laura Taylor and Karen Armstrong-Cummings, Committee Analysts; Cecilia Perry, Committee Assistant.
Senator Stine welcomed members and guests to the meeting. She then introduced Secretary James Host, Commerce Cabinet.
Secretary Host gave an update on branding in the state of Kentucky. He said that the goal of branding was to develop a consistent message that would sell the state in a more efficient basis. Eighteen agencies submitted proposals to create this branding message with the understanding that the state would own their ideas and through an objective process that utilized the skills and judgment of various Cabinet officials, one agency was selected. Secretary Host said that by using the same message to promote Kentucky, the state will save money and be more efficient.
Chairman Ballard asked if one agency would be capable of doing such a large branding task. Secretary Host said that he believed they could because they are a division of the second largest agency in the world.
Representative Pullin asked if there has been any consideration given to licensing the logo to businesses and organizations such as the Chambers of Commerce. Secretary Host said that such a task had been considered but instead of that process they plan to license the logo on merchandise which will produce a revenue stream. Also, the logo is to be licensed to every city in Kentucky to promote the logo while also supporting it by partnering with their state.
Representative Pullin was concerned about organizations that were not directly controlled by the state. She asked that in the course of the licensing process when dealing with those organizations that the Cabinet be careful not to the dilute the power of the logo. Secretary Host said that there was to be a policing agency in place for troubleshooting and outside organizations will have to purchase a license to use the logo.
Senator Thayer asked about the agency that has been selected to promote the new Kentucky logo. Secretary Host said that the agency was a Kentucky agency called New West. New West is partnered with Fitzgerald, which is one of the largest agencies in the southeast. Fitzgerald is also a part of an agency called Inner Public, which is the second largest agency in the world.
Senator Thayer also asked for names of some key clients that have used these agencies in their marketing initiatives. Secretary Host mentioned Coca Cola and Brown-Forman as examples.
Representative Webb asked if there were any projections concerning the fiscal impact of the money that is to be generated. Secretary Host said that the money was intended to cut the deficit in the Cabinet to the point where they could be self sufficient in the future.
Chairman Stine asked when the committee could see the logo. Secretary Host indicated that the logo was not ready at this time. Currently, the Cabinet loaded a page on their website that is for the public to participate and provide input for this branding initiative. The Cabinet plans to gather input from various places by putting together focus groups in New York, Indianapolis, Columbus, St. Louis, and here in Kentucky.
Secretary Host then introduced Commissioner George Ward, Department of Parks to provide the group with an update on state parks.
Commissioner Ward provided the committee with some background information involving his qualifications, education and experiences in the hotel/motel industry. He then touched on some priorities of his department which included protecting the natural beauty of the state parks, insuring customer satisfaction, and training park employees appropriately and adequately. He also discussed maintenance of buildings, park equipment and recreational facilities. The departments long term goal is to become self sufficient. The American Automobile Association (AAA) is responsible for inspecting park facilities to help make sure they stay current and are maintained appropriately. Also, a State Park Commission will be put into place that will be made up of professional people outside of state government and they will also help the parks maintain a positive status. He said, above all, the Department needed appropriate funding to prevent the state parks from deteriorating.
Representative Ballard stated that he supported Commissioner Ward's new employee dress code. He then questioned Commissioner Ward about the new policy concerning employees not being able to stay overnight at the facility in which they work. He asked if those employees were prohibited from attending a function a their work place such as a wedding or annual festival. Commissioner Ward said that the policy simply dealt with the employee spending the night. They are not banned from attending special events held at their work place.
Senator Boswell referred to the dress code and stated his support for such action. He also commented on the policy that required covering up body art such as tattoos or piercings. He asked about the grounds employees whose job requires them to be out in hot climates. He asked if the new policy required those employees to wear a long sleeve shirt to hide body art regardless of the nature of their job and the summer weather conditions. His main concern was the potential health threat to employees given the hot climate. Commissioner Ward said that the policy does not require the employee to wear a long sleeve shirt. The policy simply requires them to cover their body art so that it isn't exposed. He said that the body art issue affects very few employees and that the individuals for whom it does apply to, they have been using sweat bans or band aids to cover their markings.
Representative Webb asked about the policy or regulation that pertains to golf carts or battery operated vehicles at state parks because there are handicap individuals who need access to those types of vehicles. Commissioner Ward said he reviewed state law and ADA requirements and after researching the issue there is now a policy that allows handicap individuals to use vehicles or other equipment to aid them in their overnight stay.
Representative Webb addressed some of her concerns with several of the new policies. She discussed college students who work as seasonal employees being prohibited from staying overnight at the state park. She also said that she feared losing the integrity of the park systems to that of commercialization. She shared with the group her feelings on the potential threat of privatization among housekeeping and maintenance workers in the park system. Commissioner Ward said that privatization has not been considered in the parks systems. He said that the park systems definitely need maintenance and house keepers to satisfy their visitors. Secretary Host addressed her concerns relating to commercialization within the park systems. He said their goal was to relay a consistent message to the tourists who visit our state that will also help generate revenue during that process.
Senator Denton asked about the access to pro cards for state park employees. She said that she was aware that the park manager had direct control over the cards but she asked if that was a good utilization of the park managers time when maintenance employees routinely have a greater need for those cards. Commissioner Ward explained that the park managers are responsible for the cards so there is some idea of how often they are being used. He said the park managers can sign the card out to individuals at their discretion.
Senator Denton asked if Commissioner Ward had plans of updating the facility at Tom Sawyer State Park and if new vehicles for the park facilities were a possibility. Commissioner Ward said that the Department of Parks has to determine the needs of each park and then prioritize those needs to determine what facility requires the most attention.
Senator Denton commented on the Tom Sawyer State Park needing to have adequate security staff to ensure a safe park environment for staff and guests.
Representative Pullin commented on employees not being able to stay overnight at the park facility where they work. She asked that this policy not be so broad based due to rural areas not having as many options for recreational activities.
Representative Brandon Smith commented on a job well done on behalf of the park system and the branding initiatives. He also commented on the many attempts to raise the water level at Buckhorn Lake. He asked Secretary Host if he had received any current information concerning the lake. Secretary Host said that he had heard nothing at this time.
Representative DeWeese commended Secretary Host and Commissioner Ward for their work to improve the state's park system. Representative DeWeese asked what the plans were for recreational parks to be self-sufficient. Commissioner Ward said they are willing to do whatever it takes to reach that goal. He said that the income from some of the larger parks would be able to help other parks that are not set up to make money.
Representative Weaver thanked Secretary Host for his assistance in getting a new entrance to the Patton Museum so that the general public could visit the museum and not go through security.
Representative Couch said that Secretary Host and his staff
was doing an excellent job. He also announced news of a public meeting
Lake and asked that someone from the Cabinet attend.
Secretary Host introduced Randy Fiveash, Commissioner of Travel.
Commissioner Fiveash gave details of his professional background in tourism and travel industry. He discussed amending language to the Tourism Development Act to open doors for dining and lodging facilities that will encourage development in rural communities. He explained that there were other efforts to increase tourism in the state through means of film recruitment, retirement recruitment, rails-to-trails projects, and special meeting events and conventions
Senator Kerr complimented the Cabinet on their efforts and enthusiasm.
Senator Boswell discussed gaming being a tourism attraction for neighboring states and asked if the Department of Travel had any plans to pursue gaming in the future. Commissioner Fiveash said that they have not considered this at this time. Secretary Host added that the Cabinet planned to research the impact that gaming has on tourism and try to strategize on how to market against it.
Co-Chairs Ballard and Stine thanked the gentlemen for their presentation. The motion was made and seconded for adjournment. The Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism adjourned at 2:50 p.m.