January 20, 2010

Strong economy boosts funds

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Across the nation, non-profit organizations have been hit hard due to the recession; however, the story is different in McKenzie County.
Thanks to a great year for the Watford City city sales tax and lodging tax, the Watford City Roughrider Fund and the Watford City Lodging Tax Committee have had banner years.
This has been one of the best years for us as far as revenue,” says Tim Taylor, Watford City Roughrider Fund board member. “Watford City has had a good year and the amount of sales tax taken in shows it.”
The Watford City Roughrider Fund began in 1998 as a way to provide fund’s for economic projects in the local area.
“We don’t have a real strict set of criteria,” says Taylor. “The fund is here to help increase jobs in Watford City and help the local businesses to better themselves.”
According to Taylor, fixing up Main Street has been the Roughrider Funds main focus for the past couple of years, but it has still been around to help build businesses.
“During the past two years we have given out a lot of money for businesses to fix up their store fronts and it really shows when you drive down Main Street,” adds Taylor. “We have also helped a couple of large businesses which creates jobs and a daycare to help employees find child care.”
According to Taylor, the increase in revenue has allowed the Roughrider Fund to help two local trucking businesses expand which keeps jobs in the area instead of moving them to larger communities. It has also been able to create an ongoing plan to help Wiggles and Giggles Daycare with an annual contribution with hopes that this will help alleviate some of Watford City’s ongoing child care issues.
“Although this has been one of our better years financially, it has also been a difficult year for the committee,” states Taylor. “This year has been challenging because the applications are more diverse than we’ve ever seen. No two applications have been alike. That makes the decision making a little tougher than what we’ve had in past years.”
According to Taylor, in 2008 the Roughrider Fund took in $237,000 for local projects, one of their highest amounts. And although he doesn’t have the 2009 total as of yet, he is positive they will take in even more this year.
“Now that most of the Main Street businesses have been updated I’m not sure what our focus will be,” adds Taylor. “We are a reactive organization so we will continue to change our focus as the applications come in.”
One project that the fund plans to help with over the next few years is the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway Association (TREA). The vision of the TREA is to initially promote the updating of the corridor's current, standard two-lane, formatting into a super two highway format which would improve on the current highway format by widening the shoulders, adding passing lanes on hills, and placing turning lanes at intersections to help improve overall travel efficiency and safety.
“The corridor known as the Theodore Roosevelt Expressway runs right through Watford City and we feel that this is a good association to assist,” adds Taylor. “Obviously, if you improve the transportation in and around Watford City it is going to be good for the businesses in the area.”
In addition to increased sales, Watford City also benefited from an increase in lodging. With an increase in the oil field came an increase in the need for lodging with most of Watford City’s motels showing no vacancy signs for long periods. So the Lodging Tax Committee also had a great year.
“This is such a nice problem to have,” says Brent Sanford, Watford City Lodging Tax Committee member. “The money for both the Roughrider Fund and the Lodging Tax Committee comes from taxes that people are used to paying so there aren’t any complaints. And with the economy doing so well here, it makes for a nice little pot of money for both groups to distribute.”
The Watford City Lodging Tax Committee receives revenue through tax collected by local motels and distributes it to groups whose events attract people to the community.
“About 15 years ago this fund was used to help bring people to area motels,” says Sanford. “With the increase in motel usage, it has become more tourism focused, but we still look for groups who are bringing people into the community.”
According to Sanford, in the four years he has been a member of this committee, the revenue has more than doubled, allowing them to help out a lot more.
“Most of our requests come from the tourism director or the Chamber of Commerce,” adds Sanford. “But, I think a lot more groups could use this funding if they realized it was here, and now that we have more money coming in, we will be able to help more groups.”
The Lodging Tax Committee routinely helps with Ribfest and Homefest and this year they will be helping with a project to improve the signage for Watford City. But it is open to any non-profit group who advertises their event out of town.
“I know there are groups out there that bring in a lot of out-of-town people and they probably don’t even realize there are funds available,” adds Sanford. “I urge those non-profit groups to check into the Lodging and Tax Committee to see how we can help them out.”
For more information on the Watford City Lodging Tax Committee, contact Jan Dodge, McKenzie County Tourism director at 444-5804. For more information on the Watford City Roughrider Fund, contact Gene Veeder, Watford City Job Development Authority at 444-2804.