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Local

St. Charles Visitors Bureau, Downtown St. Charles Partnership to merge

New organization will be called One St. Charles

To better promote St. Charles, the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown St. Charles Partnership plan to merge into one organization that will be called One St. Charles.
To better promote St. Charles, the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown St. Charles Partnership plan to merge into one organization that will be called One St. Charles.

ST. CHARLES – To better promote St. Charles, the Greater St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Downtown St. Charles Partnership plan to merge into one organization that will be called One St. Charles.

"One St. Charles plans to be a collaborative organization focused on improving and enhancing upon efficiencies between St. Charles businesses, our visitors to our town, our hotels and our residents," Chris Woelffer, president of the board of directors for the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, said in addressing aldermen on Feb. 19 at the City Council's Government Operations Committee meeting. "Simply, it's to the benefit of all of St. Charles."

The Downtown St. Charles Partnership, founded in 1992, organizes a number of events throughout the year, including the St. Patrick's Day Parade, set for March 9 this year. The Convention and Visitors Bureau, founded in 1983, was one of the first CVBs to be certified by the state of Illinois to promote the community as a destination for meetings and conventions, motorcoach tours, sporting events and leisure getaways, according to its website.

Discussions about the possible merger between the two organizations began more than a year ago, Woelffer said. As he told aldermen, there have been many issues to talk about regarding the merger.

"Trying to rework and figure out how to do those organizations better is something that we've been spending a lot of time on," he said.

The mission of One St. Charles will be to "drive economic growth to make the St. Charles community a destination where people, businesses and tourism thrive," Woelffer told aldermen.

One St. Charles will have an annual operating budget of about $1 million, which includes funds from the city's hotel motel tax and its special service area along with sales, sponsorship and event revenue.

The group is requesting $749,600 in funding from the city in the next year, with $260,000 coming from the city's special service area and $489,600 from the city's hotel motel tax. Last year, the Convention and Visitors Bureau received $503,382 from the city and the Downtown St. Charles Partnership received $252,000, for a total of $755,382.

One St. Charles will focus on four key areas – marketing, sales, support and events, Tom Donahue, president of the board of directors for the Convention and Visitors Bureau, told the aldermen. It will operate as a nonprofit organization with oversight provided by a board of directors, Donahue said. Other communities have adopted a similar model as One St. Charles.

"There's a similar model of One St. Charles in Naperville," he said. "They've been particularly successful for years with their combined CVB and what they call a Naperville Development Partnership."

Jenna Sawicki, who is currently the executive director of the Downtown St. Charles Partnership, will be the director of One St. Charles. She talked about the benefits of the merger.

"The collaboration will create more efficiencies and ultimately, make the programming more effective," she said. "Of course, there will growth and changes as we move down the road, as that is what will keep the organization relevant and cutting edge."

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