CAPC considers contract with app developer

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Eureka Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission could be sponsoring a new mobile application in the next year.

On Wednesday, June 14, local app developer Chip Ford addressed putting together a contract allowing the commission to offer the application for free citywide. Ford said he wanted to have a sponsorship agreement with the commission.

“There’s no way to make it work other than sponsorship agreement … putting your name on it, like Arvest Ballpark,” Ford said.

Ford and the commissioners have been in talks about the app for months. Ford said the commission initially proposed an independent contractor agreement, saying he’d rather have a sponsorship agreement.

“But it’s more than a sponsorship agreement, because I know after seeing that contract there are certain aspects that are not traditional in sponsorships,” Ford said.

These aspects, he explained, are the levels of control the commission would have over the application. Ford said he’d be open to giving CAPC staff the opportunity to add information to the application as needed.

“I want the CAPC to have levels of control and access to some things, but it’s not an independent contractor relationship,” he said.

Ford said he would need $40,000 from the commission to offer the application for free, saying this is double the amount he expected it to be. That amount, he said, would allow him to release the application for free on Google devices. He said it will be released on Apple devices regardless of the commission’s involvement.

“Apple’s launching no matter what happens. I’d like to attain a sponsorship to launch it on a Google platform,” Ford said.

When it came to figuring out how much it would cost to release the application on Google devices, Ford said, he worked with his team of coders to come to the $40,000 figure. Ford said he reached out to other coders nationwide, hoping he could get the price down a bit. That didn’t happen, Ford said.

“They could not even match what we could do in-house,” Ford said. “We got quotes back saying $50,000, $70,000 or $80,000. We could not find anything cheap enough. It surprised everyone.”

Commissioner David Mitchell asked Ford what he will get out of the sponsorship.

“Most people wouldn’t go to this length with this much money in it to develop an app that’s a product for tourism or guests unless there was a way to generate revenue,” Mitchell said. “I’m having trouble figuring out where it’s at.”

Ford said the app isn’t just for tourists.

“We now have access to historic images file data. We have almost completed a historic section, and that’s not just for tourists alone,” Ford said. “That’s what’s making it worth it.”

“You think a tourism app for the tourists of Eureka Springs is going to generate enough money to pay for this? I’m having trouble with this,” Mitchell said.

Ford said he has already paid to release the application on Apple devices, saying he would like to work with the commission to get it out on Google devices.

“Through this app, someone will be able to have everything on a mobile phone tied into their calendar…[they’ll] literally have everything under the sun,” Ford said.

Mitchell said he wasn’t questioning the quality of the application.

“I like the functionality of this a lot. It’s very user-friendly,” Mitchell said. “I’m always a bottom line person. I hate spending money without knowing I’ll get value. I think for the CAPC, the value is in the tourism and making the city more desirable, so it matches the CAPC’s philosophy a lot.”

Mitchell asked how Ford planned to market the application, and Ford said he would do most of that through social media.

“As far as promotion, it’s through the generation of content. We are sitting on a mountain of content,” Ford said.

Ford said he could work with the commission to receive $20,000 upfront and the other $20,000 in 2018, when the application would likely be released on Google devices. Commissioner Terry McClung said he was OK with that.

“I think it’s good enough that I’m certainly willing to … at least, with my vote, willing to risk the $20,000,” McClung said.

Director Mike Maloney pointed out that the city already has an application, saying it has been downloaded1,800 times over the past eight months. Maloney said city employees use the application, including police officers and department heads. Ford said his application is different, because it offers up-to-date content.

“When something sits there, it’s going to sit there,” Ford said. “But when it works, it works.”

Mitchell said the commission wouldn’t see a return on its initial $20,000 payment for a while.

“We’re putting a huge investment in your start-up, and we’re not getting a good return for that $20,000,” Mitchell said.

“I’m giving you the power to have as much return as you want. At the end of the day, the more you promote, the more you utilize,” Ford said.

McClung said the $40,000 would be a financial risk, and commissioner Susan Harman said the commission has spent quite a bit of money on short-term sponsorships in the past.

“The CAPC has sponsored other events that may have only gone on for three or four days. The hope was that reach was going to bring X number of people to town,” Harman said.

The commissioners asked Maloney to work with Ford on the contract, and Maloney agreed to do so.

“Chip and I will meet about it and compile all these things together to have something we can bring back,” Maloney said. “We do need to have some expediency on this. If we have to call a special meeting, we should.”

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