I thought you had been banned Maurice?
"Elvis Foundation ready to rock - with help
8/20/2006 12:09:51 AM
BY EMILY LE COZ
TUPELO - Henry Dodge has a vision. The chair of the Elvis Presley Memorial Foundation wants to turn Tupelo's biggest tourist draw into a world-class attraction.
He and the foundation board have plans to renovate the Elvis Presley Museum this year and slowly build on one of Mississippi's hottest tourist stops, the Tupelo-born singer's birthplace.
But Dodge wants to do it quietly, under the radar, the way he runs his successful, private businesses - Savings Oil and the famous Dodge's Chicken Store chain.
That's why he twice refused to show the foundation's financial statements to members of the Tupelo Convention and Visitors Bureau when asking them to help fund the museum renovation project.
"I was concerned they wouldn't understand what we were doing to operate out there," Dodge said. "We have always operated with a low profile, because that's the smart thing to do."
But, in this case, it's not the easy thing to do because the foundation isn't a private business. It's a public entity created as an unincorporated trust that "is essentially equivalent to a department of the city," said Daily Journal attorney Tom Wicker of Tupelo. As such, it is legally obligated to reveal its budget, balance sheet and other such information to anyone who requests it.
Dodge, who turned over the financial information to the Daily Journal this week, said he didn't realize he had such an obligation. The foundation seems always to have operated behind the curtains and, in fact, never kept minutes until a new board - including Dodge - was appointed by the city in 2000. Other members are Donna Kaye Randle, Billy Ford Waters, Tom Robinson and Dick Guyton, who is also executive director.
Established in 1977
The foundation was created by the city in September 1977, just weeks after Elvis' death. Its guiding force was Presley-family-friend Janelle McComb, its first chairperson.
Its mission centered on "raising, receiving, and administering funds and other property to memorialize Elvis Aaron Presley ... by encouraging the establishment of an Elvis Presley museum, an Elvis Presley memorial, and other such activities ... ," according to municipal minutes from that time.
And though a five-member board had been appointed, McComb - who died last year - more or less ran the show alone, Dodge said. During that time, she opened a gift shop, established a museum, had the chapel built and drew attention to the birthplace of the Rock n' Roll icon.
Since regrouping six years ago, the new board under Dodge's leadership has appraised the museum's memorabilia, installed security and video surveillance equipment, renovated the birthplace grounds, created the executive director position and smoothed relationships with the city, the CVB and Elvis Presley Enterprises, which owns the legal rights to all things Elvis.
Now, Dodge wants to expand upon the local accomplishments, and he's ready to show his financials if it means getting funding for the next vision: a $262,400 renovation aimed at turning the Elvis Presley Museum into a "world-class" attraction and doubling its attendance to 100,000 visitors annually.
According to the foundation's records, the group has nearly $835,400 in assets and another $1.3 million in property and equipment for a total of nearly $2.2 million. Those figures make the foundation appear quite wealthy, Dodge said, but it's not that simple.
The foundation also owes nearly $371,000 for a construction loan from 5-year-old grounds' renovations and it needs to keep some $300,000 in the bank as a cushion to cover next year's operating funds.
That leaves about $164,000 in non-fixed assets to work with - two thirds of it will go to the museum project, and the rest will stay in the bank for emergency or other needs. One example might be the means to acquire an important Elvis asset that could enhance the tourist experience at the birthplace attraction.
"It's not about the house, it's not about the gift shop, it's not even about the museum," Dodge said. "It's about the experience. It's about the fans."
Part of the financial picture also includes the renovation project that will keep the museum closed from October through December. That means the foundation will lose ticket sales to its biggest attraction, which typically brings in about $11,000 monthly.
All of that taken into account, the balance sheet shows the foundation indeed needs outside funding to accomplish its goal. And it looks like it might get it. CVB members who initially refused to fund Dodge's $50,000 request are having a change of heart after seeing the documents, Dodge said. CVB executive director Linda Butler Johnson seems to agree.
"That's a big tourist attraction for us and I certainly want it to grow. I'm all for it," said Butler Johnson, who has seen the reports. "I can't speak for the entire board, but I certainly want to be supportive of it."
The CVB meets again Tuesday and could vote on whether to give the foundation what it's requested. Dodge also has met with several City Council members and appears confident they will respond favorably to his $100,000 request from that entity. They likely will vote on that matter after budget hearings in mid September.
Contact Daily Journal business writer Emily Le Coz at 678-1588 or email@example.com
Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 8/20/2006 8:00:00 AM, section A , page 1 "
Heartening news indeed. I have a well documented soft spot for Tupelo:-)
I thought you had been banned Maurice?
Back to Elvis the news from Tupelo deserves comment, don't you think?
Back in 1998 all was comparitively quiet on that front..then I contacted the Tupelo media, and the Mayor, Glenn McCullough.
Well I contacted Mayor Glenn McCullough JNR 1998 and received a nice letter from him.
We then spoke long distance about Elvis Day in Tupelo. A few days later the Elvis Festival of August 1999 was announced.