City Council takes step toward convention center

Released by The City of Tyler:

TYLER, TX - The Tyler City Council voted today to support a measure that would raise the local hotel occupancy tax rate from seven to nine percent to fund a convention center.

"We estimate that at least 20,000 convention visitors go elsewhere each year because Tyler does not have the facilities to accommodate larger groups," commented Mayor Barbara Bass. "The need was identified in the Industry Growth Initiative (IGI) and we are taking the first step in realizing that goal."

The IGI was adopted in May 2010 and outlines strategies Tyler should pursue to strengthen the economy.

"The IGI aligns Tyler's people resources with our natural resources," added Mayor Bass. "It is all about identifying your strengths and wholeheartedly pursuing strategies that will capitalize upon them."

Ten building blocks were identified in the plan including healthcare, higher education, retirees and tourism. A convention or meeting center was specifically identified as an opportunity to bring more visitors to Tyler.

"Tyler has tremendous opportunities to grow our tourism sector and getting the appropriate facilities will give us a competitive advantage," added Bass.

In addition to pursuing the hotel tax adjustment, a public relations consortium has been formed to take a close look at the community's image and how Tyler is marketed. A community survey was completed that recommended that the rose continue to be used to represent Tyler. Additionally, 72 percent of respondents felt that a convention center was needed to attract more visitors.

Texas Tax Code Section 351.003 authorizes certain municipalities to enact a hotel occupancy rate not to exceed 9 percent of the price paid for a room for a hotel.

"The next step in this process is to have measures introduced into the Texas Senate and carried in the House," explained Bass. "Because they only convene every other year, we are asking for consideration this year so that we do not have to wait two more years."

The revenue raised from the additional 2 percent in the hotel occupancy tax rate would be used for the costs associated with and related to a new or expanded conference center and/or multi-purpose arena, and any associated facilities. The funds would be accounted for separately within the City of Tyler's Occupancy Tax Fund and tracked as a reserve for future commitments. It is estimated that the tax would generate $500,000 per year.