WILLMAR - As Election Day draws nearer, the Invest in Willmar committee is starting to unveil its marketing campaign for the proposed local option sales tax, which if approved by city voters would raise $30 million for six community projects.
"The worst thing that could happen is someone showing up on Nov. 6 and not knowing what the initiative is," said Matt Dawson, co-founder of Invest in Willmar.
Invest in Willmar is a community-led drive to get a 0.5 percent local option sales tax approved and added to Willmar's overall sales tax rate, bringing it to 7.875 percent.
Invest in Willmar intends to share information about the sales tax proposal with as many people as possible using the internet, traditional media and public engagements.
The marketing plan includes a Facebook page, website and sharing video endorsements from people in the community.
Committee members have been speaking at a variety of service organizations and have also been working with all the sports booster clubs in the city.
"The yard signs are coming. We will be doing door knocking with literature pieces," said Mary Sawatzky.
Two open houses are planned: the first from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 10 at the Willmar Community Center, including presentations at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.
The second open house will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. Oct. 29 at the Willmar Civic Center, with a presentation at 6 p.m.
To make sure the message about Invest in Willmar reaches as many people as possible, the committee has hired VantagePoint Marketing to help.
"We are helping the team create a strategy, to get that message out," said Claire Meyers, of VantagePoint Marketing. "Making sure all voters, no matter their background, are being represented and given a reason why to vote yes."
"We encourage people to share their stories," Meyers said.
If approved, the tax would be collected for 13 years or until the $30 million is raised, whichever comes first.
The revenue raised from the tax would fund six projects - a recreation center/events center, recreation fields, updates at Robbins Island Regional Park and Swansson Field Complex, a new community center and stormwater improvements across the city.
"We want to invest in those areas, but don't believe local voters should have to pay for all of that," Dawson said.
The local option sales tax would be added to all eligible purchases made in Willmar. This does not include clothing, groceries, health care, prescriptions, fuel, insurance or loans.
"If you're not paying tax on it now, you won't if this passes," said Meyers.
Unlike property taxes, which only property owners in the city pay, a local option sales tax spreads the tax over everyone who makes purchases in Willmar.
According to Invest in Willmar, at least 50 percent of the revenue raised from the sales tax will come from people who live outside of Willmar.
"It is the way to generate income for our community, fairly," Dawson said.
The sales tax rate of 7.875 percent would be comparable to other regional centers including New Ulm, Marshall, Brainerd and Mankato. New London and Spicer also have a local option sales tax on the books.
Willmar voters will get their chance to vote yes or no on the sales tax question on Nov. 6. If approved, the tax question then goes to the state Legislature, which also has to approve the measure.
"We need to grow our community. These six projects will allow us to do that," said Tony Amon, co-founder of Invest in Willmar.
The projects are not all about sports, he added. The new recreation center could end up being a place for seniors to take part in new activities while a new community center will allow for more programming for all ages. The stormwater projects will positively impact the entire community, and the upgrades to Robbins Island and Swansson Field could increase the money being brought into the city as families from outside the city use the facilities more.
"We need to find those connections, that this will be a benefit to them," Sawatzky said. "The more amenities we can provide for all ages, the more of an impact it will have on all ages. It all ties in."
Proposed sales tax
The 0.5 percent local option sales tax on the Nov. 6 ballot would bring Willmar's sales tax rate to 7.875 percent, comparable to other regional centers. An estimated $30 million would be raised in approximately 13 years.
The revenue would fund six Willmar community projects:
• Recreation and events center, $10 million
• Recreation fields, $6 million
• Robbins Island improvements, $3 million
• Swansson Field improvements, $2 million
• Stormwater projects, $7 million
• New community center, $2 million
More information is available from Invest in Willmar at www.investinwillmar.com or on Facebook at the Invest in Willmar page.