Coon Rapids receives grant from visitors, tourism bureau

The city of Coon Rapids is $15,885 better off thanks to Twin Cities Gateway, the north suburban visitors and tourism bureau of which the city is a member.

The presentation of the marketing grant by Steve Markuson, Twin Cities Gateway marketing director, was made at the April 16 Coon Rapids City Council meeting.

The grant based on the local option lodging tax of 3 percent collected by the city for the operation of Twin Cities Gateway, is some $500 more than the 2012 figures.

Under state law governing the local option lodging sales tax and an agreement with the Twin Cities Gateway Board, the city can use the grant dollars to promote an event, activity or facility located in the city to add new activities to enhance existing events, according to City Manager Steve Gatlin.

Under city policy, 90 percent of the grant, $14,296.50 will go to the Community Strength Foundation and the remaining $1,588.50 will be placed in the contract grants account of the general fund, Gatlin said.

The foundation, which was formed in 2011, was the idea of Mayor Tim Howe. It brings together representatives of community/civic groups under one umbrella as well as representatives of the city.

The foundation is operated exclusively for charitable purposes, promoting Coon Rapids “through civic celebrations, the arts and healthy community building events and activities,” according to its articles of incorporation.

The foundation’s funds don’t come from the taxpayers. The TCG is one source, so is 90 percent of the 5 percent the city gets from local charitable gambling license holders.

One of the primary events that the foundation financially support is the Fourth of July fireworks display at Sand Creek Park.

In addition, the foundation has donated to the Coon Rapids Citizens Academy, an eight-week program designed to give residents an up-close behind the scene look at city government, which will complete its second year with a graduation ceremony April 29 at the Harvest Grill.

The foundation board comprises representatives of community service organizations, charitable gaming organizations, city advisory commissions, fire relief association and general community members.

Coon Rapids is one of nine-member cities of Twin Cities Gateway, which draws from north suburban communities in Anoka and Ramsey counties.

The purpose of Twin Cities Gateway is to promote activities that will draw visitors to the member communities, according to Markuson.

Members include Anoka, Blaine, Coon Rapids, Fridley, Ham Lake, Lino Lakes, Mounds View, New Brighton and Shoreview.

Coon Rapids has three members on the board – Councilmember Jerry Koch, Gatlin and a representative from one of the city’s hotels.

“Not many people are aware how significant the tourism industry is in Anoka County and the economic impact it has,” Markuson said.

A good deal of the promotion work comes through the Twin Cities Gateway website, on which each member community has a page and events and activities in the community are promoted, according to Markuson.

Besides the annual marketing grant, Twin Cities Gateway also provides promotion and financial assistance to specific events in its member cities, Markuson said.