OC Tourism Guide Vote Takes Design Work Outside Region

OCEAN CITY — The Sea For Yourself tourist guide is going through a lot of changes this year, and most of them have been welcomed with open arms.  Yet, this week, after an out-of-town designer was hired, there were some people that were seemingly up in arms.

The 2010 Sea For Yourself Visitor’s Guide will be the first that sees the Town of Ocean City and the Chamber of Commerce working together as partners, after the town’s guide and the chamber’s guide were merged together into one sole-message visitor guide last spring.

The guide is expected to be 132 pages this year, with the town of Ocean City overseeing and managing the content and the design, while the chamber essentially handles the advertising sales and distribution costs, such as shipping and distribution.

The City Council voted on Tuesday in a unanimous vote to award the bid for the design part of the Sea For Yourself Guide to Quade Creative Services in Greenbackville, Va. (near Chincoteague) for $9,042.

Although Quade’s bid came in well below the town’s allotted $15,000 budget, there were some who would have liked the job to be done by a local company.

“I’m always in favor of supporting local businesses first, then county, and then state businesses,” said Council President Joe Mitrecic, “and as much as I would’ve liked to see the Sea For Yourself job done by a local business, if they didn’t make the cut according to the assessment, then we have to do what’s best for the town and go with the best company for the job.”

Former local publisher Tom Lloyd, who had done the design of the town’s guide for almost a decade, lost his bid to regain the town’s business, as did two other local businesses, Lynch Printing and Stonehouse.

Lloyd noted that the town could be making a costly mistake, despite the lower cost that Quade will be charging.

“Were I a betting man, I’d wager that not a dime of what the city pays this Virginia company will be spent in Ocean City and not a penny will be paid in taxes to Worcester County,” said Lloyd. “Yes, the city ‘saved’ $3,000 by choosing this Virginia-based company, but it won’t get any of that back either through taxes or through local employees spending their share of that money at local businesses. More to the point, the $3,000 the city ‘saved’ could have kept three or four people here in the resort area working for a month or more. The expression ‘penny-wise and pound-foolish’ keeps popping up in my mind, especially since all the local bidders did come in under the budgeted figure for this job.”

Lloyd’s bid for 132 pages came in at $12,550 and Lynch Printing and Stonehouse’s bid for the same number of pages came in at $13,860 and $14,250, respectively.

Tourism Director Deb Turk told the council that all of the designers were rated by skill and then gauged by price, similar she said, to the advertising agency selection.

Although there were some agencies that quoted the town much less than Quade (as low as $2,800, according to the council agenda), the winning designer was based on skill and ability as much as on price.

“From what I understand, they rated the companies and weeded out the ones that couldn’t do the job the way we wanted it,” said Mitrecic, “and Quade was the lowest price of the one’s that were left.”

Also a bit unsettled by the decision was Chamber of Commerce President John Gehrig, who said that there was a bit of a communication breakdown between the town and the chamber.

“It was definitely the town’s decision, and theirs alone to choose whichever designer that they wanted to, but coming off a very successful and very open advertising agency process, I felt that there was a breakdown in communication and it’s a little discouraging we couldn’t follow one good selection process with another,” Gehrig said. “They followed the agreement as stated in the contract, but it’s the real world, and a phone call would have been nice.”

Although Gehrig is a firm believer in keeping the town’s business local whenever possible, he pledges his support and his optimism with working alongside Quade Creative Services through the design stages of the guide.

“I’m not saying that they aren’t qualified, and I am looking forward to working with them, and we hope that it goes seamlessly,” said Gehrig. “We are going to put out a great guide and that’s the goal, but I am just sick of the mentality in this town that we can’t do the job here, and that we have to go somewhere else to find a quality product.”

Lloyd also claimed that in the past, when the town had chosen to use outside companies for the guides, the results were “near disasters.”

“About a dozen years ago, the city gave the production bid to a big Pennsylvania printing company, and it ended up being six or eight weeks late, missing several important tourism shows, and was rife with errors,” said Lloyd. “Since this is the first year that the Chamber of Commerce’s guide is being combined with the city’s guide, I’d anticipate at least a few hiccups there. Any time you attempt to merge two different databases, there are bound to be some discrepancies.”