TX gets low turnout for $2m tourism RFP

AUSTIN, TX: A $2.38 million state tourism contract is up for grabs in Texas. However, only a few PR agencies seem interested in the business, as fewer than 20 firms attended a December bidders' conference.

AUSTIN, TX: A $2.38 million state tourism contract is up for grabs in Texas. However, only a few PR agencies seem interested in the business, as fewer than 20 firms attended a December bidders' conference.

"We believe what the RFP calls for in terms of the aggressive, multicountry program scope does not map to the budget that has been cited," explained Laura Beck, Porter Novelli's Austin SVP, echoing the sentiments of executives from a few other agencies.

New York-based Development Counselors International (DCI) and Dallas-based Tucker & Associates partnered on a PR contract with the Texas Department of Economic Development (TDED) until earlier this year. DCI president Andy Levin said that his agency will not seek the new contract because the RFP requires offices in London, Munich, Mexico City, and Toronto.

Tucker, however, is partnering with IPG-owned Weber Shandwick, a more recent incumbent. McCann-Erickson Southwest, also an IPG firm, has held the state tourism advertising account since 1998. For the past year, WS and Dallas' Howland PR worked as subcontractors to McCann-Erickson and Lopez Advertising Group, an El Paso-based Hispanic marketing firm.

The state presently works with another eight agencies internationally and on trade shows, and the RFP seeks to consolidate PR work with one firm.

Texas' economic development and tourism programs moved to the governor's office September 1, after the TDED was abolished.

"It sends a very clear message to businesses looking to relocate or expand in Texas that this administration and the state takes those opportunities very seriously," said Gene Acu?a, deputy press secretary for Gov. Rick Perry (R).

The short turnaround time for replying to such a complex RFP also seemed daunting to some of the agencies. Proposals were due December 22, and the 19-month contract is expected to be awarded by January 23. The contract is renewable for up to three years.

Bidders' conference attendees included Tucker, WS, Fleishman-Hillard, Edelman, Vollmer, Guerra Deberry Coody, among others.

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