Katy Brown has accepted a new marketing and promotions job in East Tennessee, and her last day as president of the Oak Ridge Convention and Visitors Bureau will be Friday.
Brown started as a sales manager at the ORCVB in 2001, and she has been president since 2006, or about eight years.
Brown will now be a marketing and promotions specialist covering Knoxville and Chattanooga. She declined to identify her new employer, but she said it is an established company.
Brown might be most well-known for her work on the annual Secret City Festival, including her promotion of the two-day celebration. But she has also been involved in a range of other efforts to help promote and market the city, ranging from hosting travel writers from across the country to working a booth at the Oak Ridge Marina during rowing races.
Brown, who replaced former ORCVB President Joe Valentino as president in 2006, said her job change has nothing to do with a proposal by City Manager Mark Watson to make the ORCVB a city department. That move has not yet been approved by the Oak Ridge City Council.
“It has nothing to do with that,” Brown said Wednesday. “This was a situation of ‘opportunity knocks.’”
Brown said her departure is “bittersweet.”
“After you’ve poured your heart and soul into something for 13 years, this feels like home, this feels like family,” she said.
She’s excited about her new opportunity and the future.
“But, it’s also hard to leave a place you love so much,” said Brown, who started at the ORCVB as a single woman with no children 13 years ago and is now married with kids. “This place has become a part of who I am.”
She said she and her family plan to stay in Oak Ridge. Her husband Mike has a business here—M&M Productions USA—and her children go to school in the Secret City.
The next step for the ORCVB is up to its board of directors, Brown said.
Set up in 1981, the ORCVB is the city’s tourism organization. Among other things, it helps present the annual Secret City Festival; promotes rowing, travel, and events; and operates a visitors center at Midtown Community Center on Robertsville Road. Its contract with the city is its only contract.
Brown is the only ORCVB staff member remaining from 2001. But there are volunteers who have worked at the ORCVB longer. Brown said there are eight volunteers that work with the ORCVB throughout the week.
The staff at the ORCVB is also smaller than it was 13 years ago. There were five staff members when Brown started in 2001, and there are three now: Brown, Samantha Jones, and Debi Boody.
The bureau is funded by hotel and motel tax collections. But those collections have fallen for the past four years, from roughly $550,000 in Fiscal Year 2009 to about $490,000 in FY 2013. During a work session earlier this year, Watson said there have been reductions in government travel and daily expense, or per diem, reimbursements.
As the hotel and motel tax collections have fallen, so has the value of the ORCVB’s contract with the city, from about $404,000 a few years ago to closer to $300,00 now. The percentage the bureau has earned from the hotel tax revenues has also been reduced during the past three years.