Papenfuse, visitors bureau agree on $620K marketing deal

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Mayor Eric Papenfuse says he and representatives of the Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau have put aside their differences to form a marketing partnership.

Months of bickering over marketing plans, National Civil War Museum funding, use of hotel tax revenues, and a myriad of other spats between the city and the visitors bureau appear to have ended.

“We have agreed to disagree on the Civil War Museum,” Papenfuse said Monday.

Papenfuse He and HHRVB president Mary Smith held a news conference inside city hall to announce a partnership that would funnel $620,000 to Harrisburg over the next four years.

“We’re trying to get everybody in sync,” Papenfuse said, “[getting] everybody to sort of maximum efficiency and help promote this city.”

The agreement will give Harrisburg a voice in how funds are used towards marketing the capital city.

“Something we desperately, desperately, need,” Papenfuse said.

The deal includes the formation of a committee to develop a marketing strategy. Economic development director Jackie Parker and business director Devan Drabik would be the city’s two representatives on the committee.

Papenfuse said the deal also calls for two new city positions, a marketing director and web content manager. HHRVB is offering a “sponsorship” of $95,000 to cover salaries for the two positions, which need the approval of City Council.

The marketing director would earn the lion’s share at $50,000 and be tasked to plan and coordinate Harrisburg’s four main events; Fourth of July, Kipona, the Holiday Parade, and New Year’s Eve. The deal sets aside $60,000 to market those events specifically.

“These are pillars in the tourism matrix,” Papenfuse said, “but they’re a lot of work.”

The remaining $220,000 would be spent on citywide marketing and promotional campaigns that include billboards, radio ads and other media blitzes. Papenfuse was asked if the campaign would include neighborhoods other than Downtown and Midtown, where the mayor’s business is located.

Papenfuse said he had discussions on ways to market Allison Hill and vowed to promote all aspects of Harrisburg in order to boost business.

The metrics of success were fluid in that the mayor said there were no concrete goals other than to increase attendance at events and generate more revenue. He said the first event marketed would be next year’s Fourth of July festival.

The St. Patrick’s Day Parade and ArtsFest are organized by private parties, not the city.

Papenfuse said the four-year deal would give the city enough time to build momentum and perhaps be sustainable in the future. Given that it is a four-year contract, he said the timeframe did not necessarily mean he would run for a second term.

Harrisburg will likely not attempt to outsource its events like in previous failed attempts. Papenfuse said the deal give city events stability and professional backing to foster economic growth under recovery.

“We need people to come in and support the city and we need to have measurable economic development of the city … if the city’s going to be able to sustain moving forward,” he said.

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