WICHITA — The state tourism department has a new contract for the 2013 Kansas Official Visitors Guide, but it’s not with a Kansas company.
“I’m certainly not very happy with how everything went down with the RFP,” says Jeff Peterson, president of Topeka-based Peterson Publications.
Kansas companies used to produce and sell advertising for the guides until several years ago when Iowa-based Midwest Living took it over.
For a time, Peterson Publications continued to sell the advertising, then Midwest handled it, then it went back to Peterson.
Now, the state has contracted with Arizona-based Madden Media for sales and production.
“They produce guides for several destinations around the country, have great experience in doing that (and) have the capacity to do a project of this magnitude,” says tourism director Becky Blake.
There were six companies that submitted bids, including three Kansas companies.
“It’s also fair to say that this project was not one that I think any of these companies have done on the scale that I think the Kansas Visitors Guide is,” Blake says.
The guide is returning to an annual schedule with 300,000 copies compared to a recent biannual schedule with 700,000 copies.
Blake says cost was a factor in Madden’s selection as was some of the extras the company can offer, such as in the digital realm. She says the company will assist in distribution, too, and has the contacts to get the guides in the hands of more travelers.
Local firms are always a consideration, Blake says.
“The RFP even states a local company certainly would be preferable if … everything else was equal,” she says.
Blake says the state uses Lawrence-based Sunflower Publishing, which submitted a proposal to do the guides, to produce its quarterly Kansas! magazine. She says it uses Topeka-based Jones Huyett Partners, which also submitted a proposal, as its ad agency.
Peterson says he’s not sure if there’s a Kansas printer big enough to handle production of the guides, but he thinks some of the work could easily be done here.
“I do think it’s disappointing the project was not able to be … partially done with vendors in the state,” he says.
“If there’s somebody saying we didn’t have the capabilities, that’s what I would dispute.”
Peterson says he would have liked to at least kept the sales for the guide, and he figures that could be a possibility if sales don’t go well for Madden.
“We think it could happen like it happened with (Midwest Living),” he says. “We’ll have to wait and see.”