Toombs touts Expo progress to commission

Xavier Smith • May 15, 2017 at 9:56 PM

The Wilson County Expo Center marketing manager discussed the facility’s progress Monday during the Wilson County Commission’s monthly meeting.

Charity Toombs, Expo marketing manager, delivered a performance report as of March 20 to the group and said the facility has performed nicely since opening in November.

“We are off to a great start. The feedback we’ve received from event holders is phenomenal. Your facility that you built is renowned. They’re very impressed with accommodations,” Toombs said.

Toombs discussed the facility’s expenses and revenue, noting that although the facility didn’t open until November, expenses occurred at the start of the 2016-2017 fiscal year.

She said expenses for the facility, which included many start-up costs, totaled $192,336, which included about $89,000 in salaries. She said revenue from 32 paid events totaled $203,718, which included about $10,000 collected from event holders for maintenance, and $100,000 from the city of Lebanon.

“What’s exciting for us is that in four months, we generated enough revenue to cover eight months of expenses, which for us, as an Expo staff, we’re celebrating that,” Toombs said.

Toombs also noted figures based on the Building Owners and Manager Association, the average operating expenses for a commercial facility in Nashville is $6.08 per square foot, while the Expo Center is $2.47 per square foot.

“This staff and I are trying to be good stewards of your money and we feel like it’s been very successful for us,” she said.

Toombs also said hotel/motel booking has increased since the facility’s opening.

Events held at the Expo Center include the Heart of Tennessee antique show, Lebanon High School prom, Mt. Juliet Chamber of Commerce Toast to Tennessee Wine Festival, Southern Home and Garden Expo and the inaugural Batch & Bushel Showcase.

“We’re excited about where we’re going in the future,” Toombs said.

“It has been a hit in this county,” Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto said.

The commission pulled a resolution regarding additional tourism funding until the tourism committee discusses the issue.

The Wilson County Budget Committee agreed to allocate $8,000 to the tourism department to temporarily fund an additional full-time employee.

Commissioner Sue Vanatta presented the budget request on behalf of tourism director Jenny Bennett, who currently has a part-time assistant in the department. Vanatta said Bennett is in need of full-time assistant based on activity relative to tourism in the county.

Vanatta recommended designating a larger percentage of hotel-motel tax revenue to the department to support the assistant’s move from part-time to full-time. However, the committee, spearheaded by Commissioner Mike Justice, agreed to allocate $8,000 from the county’s general fund to fund the full-time position until the commission approves the 2018 budget.

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