When the “Got It in Elmhurst” campaign was created two years ago, the economy was in free fall and city officials and businesses wanted to remind residents that dollars went further when spent locally.
Two years later, the city is seeing a rebound in sales tax revenues, and both the city and the Elmhurst Chamber of Commerce and Industry want to keep it that way. But while City Council agreed Monday to continue its financial support of "Got It in Elmhurst," aldermen also are asking if the “Got It” campaign is having the hoped-for impact.
Last week, the Development, Planning and Zoning Committee approved spending $9,900 of a $25,000 fiscal year 2012-2013 budget for the Chamber to purchase both web and print ads in local media outlets. The full council gave first approval to that expense Monday night, along with a charge to the committee to examine the city's marketing efforts.
Some aldermen believe these questions should have been asked sooner. First Ward aldermen Paula Pezza and Diane Gutenkauf on Jan. 25 sent a letter to City Manager Jim Grabowski requesting some specific information:
- How much more in sales will businesses have to generate in a year to pay for the new spending request?
- How much increase (or decrease) was reported in sales since the campaign started two years ago?
- How and where was the original $50,000 used to kick off the "Got It" campaign two years ago?
- How have business owners' sales been impacted by the campaign?
- What percentage of chamber members are Elmhurst businesses and, of those, what percent are tax-generating businesses?
While she said last month that she had gotten some of her questions answered, Pezza still is waiting for more information, including a survey of businesses, before she can support more funding. She voted against the expense Monday.
“I'd like to see some type of reporting of results,” she said.
Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram agreed.
“We need some type of data,” he said, before also voting against more money for the campaign.
First Ward Alderman Diane Gutenkauf said she was “appalled” that the Got It campaign seemed not to have any clearly defined outcomes.
“Without a goal, you can't possibly know if your money is being spent wisely,” she said. Gutenkauf was the third vote against funding the campaign for the rest of the fiscal year.
Other council members had similar questions, but did not want to stop funding the campaign.
“There's no doubt that we've built some brand equity,” 4th Ward Alderman Kevin York said.
York and 3rd Ward Alderman Dannee Polomsky asked the DPZ Committee to look at marketing efficiency and strategy. Their recommendation asks the committee to identify and inventory all resources allocated for economic development, community marketing and tourism, compare objectives for all promotional efforts, and identify shared responsibilities and objectives.
The committee also will seek assistance from Elmhurst College and College of DuPage business and marketing students in analyzing the data.
Acting Mayor and 5th Ward Alderman Scott Levin noted that the council approved the start of the campaign at a time when sales tax revenues were on a steep decline, and that back then aldermen did not ask for measurable outcomes.