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Positives can still come from sponsorship debacle

Posted on September 21, 2016 by Taber Times

The business partnership by the Town of Taber and Sponsorship Connections finally came to a merciful end this past June, but perhaps a mighty Phoenix can still rise from the ashes of the failed experiment.

Sponsorship Connections was the firm the town hired back in November 2011 to help secure sponsorship dollars of town-owned assets in a quest to help offset the rising costs of recreation.

Including the two phases for the agreement which also included asset identification, according to a February 2016 sponsorship program status report issued to the Taber Recreation Board at its March 2106 meeting, costs came in at $144,000. Total sales as of the end of 2015 were listed at $22,700.

One cannot fault the recreation board at the time, who had made the suggestion to town council in hiring the business. Years upon years of having to hike recreation fees to help cover the costs of facilities/labour, where less affluent families were getting squeezed out of the process with rising costs to enjoy meaningful recreation and the board was looking outside the box to bring those costs down.

The heart was in the right place. Unfortunately, the execution was not there. Anger and frustration was apparent on the faces of recreation board members as years passed by with very little to show in the partnership. Sponsorship Connections had business relationships with other towns where no red flags were raised at the time.

What was once openly discussed during discussion period of recreation board meetings would be, one can only assume, eventually swept under the FOIP guideline for going in-camera of ‘disclosure would be harmful to the business interests of a third party’ rug, as noted on eventual recreation board meeting agendas as the negative results continued to pile in on the sponsorship secured ledger. Open session discussion on Sponsorship Connections reports stopped once these FOIP exceptions appeared on agendas, and so one can make a reasonable conclusion.

In-camera means ‘in absence of the public’ where you may choose to go in camera only to discuss security, legal matters, personal matters or labour relations as outlined in the freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Perhaps not surprising, when four full calendar years have passed and a business has not managed to recoup even a quarter of the town’s original financial investment, recreation manager Aline Holmen announced to recreation board members at its September meeting that Sponsorship Connections had gone out of business, where one final report could not be issued.

At this point, pointing out any missteps Sponsorship Connections, administration or whoever may have or may not have done in the handling of the initiative is beating a dead horse. But there is a horse that can still very well be in the race when it comes to the recreation board’s wish to help offset recreation costs for families.

That is the asset identification Sponsorship Connections did in Phase I of the agreement. Administration has repeatedly noted how there has been at least some positives gained through this agreement in that, but it is only a positive if it is acted upon and used.

If this asset identification simply sits on a shelf, never updated and never to be re-visited again to collect dust for sponsorship opportunities, then literally the town has achieved nothing from the agreement other than the $20,000 and change in secured contracts in which nearly five years have passed.

Be it in-house with town employees or go getters with lots of connections in the general public who could be awarded through commissions, something is better than nothing if one acts on the asset identification that has been put in front of them.

The thought process may have to be put off for a year or two until the economy turns around both provincially and federally, but the town still has a base to work from to make its original dream become a reality to some degree. A base of asset identification that can be continually updated as the town looks to re-organize and re-focus the initiative.

The base idea is still viable, but the town needs to change how it is delivered, and salvage as much as it can from the sunken ship of the S.S. Sponsorship Connections with its asset identification. There can still be calm waters ahead with sponsorship funding if it is with more connected people in the community in the future steering the ship.

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