The city of Benicia is in the early stages of exploring the formation of a business improvement district that could potentially fund tourism promotions.

The Economic Development Board of the Solano County city recently sent the idea back to the drawing board for consideration in the fall, according to Amalia Lorentz, the city’s economic development manager. But the board will consider forming a district pending what type of feedback it receives from the business community.

Whereas other tourism districts typically target lodging businesses with an assessment that is funneled back into a promotional fund – that cannot by law be used for other purposes – Benicia’s would likely go beyond the hotel industry because there are just four hotels in the city. It’s for that reason city officials would like more time in determining whether such a tax district could be approved, Ms. Lorentz said. She added that no numbers have been identified for a potential assessment, and no timeline exists just yet.

A report by The Placemaking Group, an Oakland-based PR firm, lists potential strengths in Benicia as “a quaint atmosphere, history, art, appealing retail stores and restaurants, and the waterfront area.”

“The primary target audiences are within a 40-minute drive radius," the report said. The potential targets are couples 35 years or older and families.

In 2008, city leaders established a marketing campaign and began limited advertising. Efforts were stepped up in 2009, when the city approved a $345,000 fund for tourism expansion that came from the general fund.

A full ad campaign was launched in 2010 that includes print ads in Sunset, Diablo and San Francisco magazines, as well as on KCBS and KGO radio stations, Ms. Lorentz said. The city now has about $280,000 for overall marketing and about $95,000 for ad buys.

Ms. Lorentz said a decision could come by the fall, after further reports are issued to the city by consultants. Sacramento-based Civitas Advisors, which helped Napa County recently form a TBID, issued a “Formation of a Tourism BID” handout.

In addition to Napa, similar districts exist in Sonoma County and San Francisco, and the city of Santa Rosa is currently pursuing one as well.

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A Berkeley-based web venture recently launched a new website for vacation rentals in the Bay Area as a means to provide a new resource “for renters and owners alike.”

The site is www.RedAwning.com.

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Napa’s Silverado Resort last week changed management companies.

The resort, one of Napa’s largest, will be run by Dolce Hotels and Resorts, an international management company. Roger Kent and Tim Wall, along with golfing legend Johnny Miller, will take over ownership of the resort.

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Submit items for this column to Dan Verel at dverel@busjrnl.com, 707-521-4257 or fax 707-521-5292.