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Hospitality tax lacks chamber support

BEMIDJI – The Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t support a hospitality tax at this time, the organization’s president Lori Paris said Wednesday.

Chamber board members met with city officials Wednesday morning to talk about the tax as a means to help pay for Sanford Center expenses.

The implementation of a 1 percent hospitality tax would require legislative approval. City manager John Chattin said local legislators indicated last year that they would need support from local business groups, including the Chamber, before bringing it to St. Paul.

“At this point, it doesn’t look like it’s going to be too favorable,” said Chattin, who previously noted the current city council supports a hospitality tax.

The tax would be for up to 1 percent at hotels and restaurants and paid by patrons.

Paris said Chamber members felt more options for the Sanford Center’s funding need to be explored.

“I don’t know that the Chamber’s convinced…that everything’s been tried,” Paris said. “We just think that there’s other mechanisms that are available that maybe we need to try first.”

Paris didn’t name specific alternatives, but said there needs to be more dialogue.

Paris described the meeting as “positive” and said there was a general agreement to work on partnerships to make the facility more successful. She added the Sanford Center would benefit from having more attractions besides Bemidji State University hockey.  

“I’m really pleased that everyone agreed that we need to sit down collectively and have some strategies on showcasing the positives and coming up some other ideas that could be revenue-builders,” Paris said.

Chattin said he suggested Chamber officials meet with incoming Sanford Center Executive Director Curtis Webb “to try and promote some ideas for making it more profitable.”

The city has budgeted $400,000 for Sanford Center operations in its 2013 budget.

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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