As reported by the WYDaily, The Williamsburg Economic Development Authority has given away $12,300 of your hard earned money (in the form of tax dollars) to local businesses in order to help them pay for Google Virtual tours of their private businesses. This is in an effort to bolster Google ratings of the City of Williamsburg as a tourist destination.
What this means to you? If you live in the City of Williamsburg, your tax dollars are being used to help “select” businesses fund interior tours of their business to boost their sales. This money does not help all businesses equally in the City.
Businesses who apply and are selected (this one is key), get a 50% matching grant to pay for their indoor virtual tour that shows up on Google Maps when people are looking for area restaurants, shops, etc. An excerpt from the article is below:
“Since April 2016, the city’s Economic Development Authority has awarded 43 Google interior virtual tour grants totaling more than $12,300. The grants require a match, meaning a business must pay 50 percent of the total bill from a Google-certified photographer.
“Especially when it comes to lodging, they want to see what they’re getting,” said Billy Scruggs, owner of the Williamsburg Fife and Drum Inn on Prince George Street.
Those who search for the Fife and Drum Inn on Google Maps can click a small thumbnail on the left hand side of the screen, which transports the viewer to the inside of the inn. From there, the viewer can click into full 360-degree views of each room.
Having an interior virtual tour online can help rank a business above other related items in a Google search.
Old City Barbeque on York Street also signed up for a Google virtual tour shortly after the restaurant opened in August 2017, which shows the interior of the restaurant, including a side dining room, a front patio and a view from the bar.
“I think for folks who haven’t been here, especially all the out of town guests that we get, it really helps them see what they’re going to get themselves into,” said Vernon Geddy IV, restaurant co-owner. “People like to see if its updated, see if everything’s looking shiny.”
The EDA has already requested $5,000 from the city to keep supporting this program next year. While it may seem like an insignificant amount considering other tax revenue like the additional “Tommy Tax” added to all purchases in the City and surrounding counties, it’s still your money Williamsburg residents. Does Old City Barbeque and Fife and Drum Inn need a government handout?
What can you do? If you have a business, speak up and contact the Economic Development Authority and City Council to let them know that all businesses should be treated equally. You can also review their current list of incentives and grants to see if you can also share in the wealth of taxpayer funded aid.