COG Visitors’ and Convention Bureau

We recently read an email proudly advising Garland citizens of a new campaign created by the City of Garland’s Visitors’ and Convention Bureau. They were on their way to Austin to promote Garland as a potential destination. Their tag line was “We’ve Got You Covered From Head to Toe”, with a graphic showing a guy with a cowboy hat and pair of flip flops alongside. The email stated they would be handing out hats and flipflops we assume they would be miniature versions of those items, to folks who visited their exhibit. The promo piece did mention Resistol, but there was no mention of Stetson, a name far more broadly recognized throughout the world and purchased by Resistol several years ago.

Still focusing on that promotion, one must wonder why the flip flops? We don’t have a beach and we’re quite sure that they are usually Chinese imports. How about touting the fact that Garland was officially declared to be the “Hat Capitol of Texas” due to the efforts of Rep. Angie Chen Button, who presented the declaration to the Mayor and City Council a few years ago. Garland is the home of hat manufacturers Resistol/Stetson, Master Hatters and Milano Hat Company. Resistol has been making hats in Garland since 1938 and tours of their facility are available. Those flip flops are just plain nonsense, but then, so is that department itself. Though we respect the members of this department, we are confused about their mission, and it seems they are too.

How can a city with no possible means to accommodate a real convention justify the expense of a Visitors and Convention Bureau? In all of Garland there is only one full service hotel accommodation, and that’s the Holiday Inn on the President George Bush Expressway. As far as convention exhibit space is concerned, we have only the Curtis Culwell Center, or Special Events Center, as it was formerly known. That facility is owned by the GISD, and no alcoholic beverages can be served or consumed on those premises. There are banquet rooms and other meeting rooms on those premises, but due to restrictions their use is limited. The nearby Hyatt Express Hotel has no food or beverage service available. There’s an attractive banquet facility at the Atrium, located adjacent to the Granville Arts Center in downtown Garland, but it is usually booked solid for many months in advance. Local organizations in need of event space are sent out of town to Allen, Rockwall or other neighboring municipalities. Sending business out of town has become a way of life for Garland’s government.

Current conditions in Garland cannot possibly lend themselves to accommodating conventions. Visitors may enjoy one of the three 18 hole golf courses owned by the city, one of our water parks or hiking trails, but they’ll want to go outside our city limits for tourist attractions. If our hot summer weather inspires a desire for a refreshing margarita, visitors will have to leave town once again to purchase all the ingredients, should they choose to mix their own.

So, instead of raking in tax revenues from conventions and adult beverages, we’re laying out tax dollars the in the form of paychecks for the staff of the garland Visitors and Convention Bureau Maybe they’re practicing for the future, but in the meantime they’re being paid to sell something we don’t have. On its surface this appears to be a great area in which to trim the City’s budget.

Nancy Ghirla email: