As I write this column , the staff at the Inn at Erlowest is preparing for a community appreciation party they're holding for Americade founder Bill Dutcher and his staff.
To be held Tuesday at noon, the fete is a gesture of thanks to Dutcher for continuing to choose Lake George as home base for Americade, the world's largest touring motorcycle rally.
Dutcher launched Americade in 1983, and it soon became the biggest single annual boost to the economy of the Lake George region, as well as bringing national recognition to Warren County.
Recently, however, the tenure of Americade here has been threatened due to the state of New York's escalating demands for money from Americade. The Department of Environmental Conservation rents the state's Million Dollar Beach parking lot to Americade for its TourExpo motorcycle trade show.
What began years ago as a voluntary courtesy payment to DEC of $10,000 for a parking lot that would have been empty and locked anyhow, has morphed into a mandated annual charge of $52,000 for a week's use of the vacant lot. This spring, DEC upped the ante with a demand that Dutcher pay up to $165,000 for a week's use of the vacant lot.
Although that figure was negotiated down to $71,300, this lower figure represents a 37 percent increase over last year. Additionally, DEC officials have told Dutcher the charge will be boosted by yet another $15,000 next year.
Faced with such an increase in expenses, Dutcher has said he was considering moving Americade to Vermont, which apparently would gladly host the rally without such punitive charges. He said Monday Americade's staying in Lake George for 2011, but future years are still in question because of the state's demands.
This increase in charges by DEC is not only unjustifiable, it's lunacy on behalf of state officials - and it demonstrates a disturbing lack of clout on behalf of our legislators, reflected in their inability to curb runaway government excesses.
A SUNY study several years ago concluded Americade brought $43 million or so into the local economy. Even if you slash the $43 million estimated Americade local impact by three-quarters, the state is earning $400,000 in sales tax annually from expenditures by Americade attendees. Warren County reaps nearly as much in their local sales tax share, plus about $200,000 annually in bed tax money.
While a DEC officials defend the increased charge based on what they might receive if they rented each individual parking space, such a claim isn't reasonable since the lot would be vacant anyway, and they should be boosting economic activity, not squashing it.
It makes absolutely no sense for our state government to chase such a revenue generator out of state over a $15,000 increase in rental fees from an empty parking lot.
When hearing about the state's escalating demands from Americade, Warren County leaders were outraged. They proclaimed that losing Americade would constitute an economic calamity for taxpayers.
The legendary rally not only provides the tax revenue and the $40 million-plus annual windfall to local businesses - that need it desperately - but it boosts employment for hundreds of local residents.
In addition, the impact of Americade is surely even greater than the figures indicate.
Each year, up to 50,000 motorcyclists from all over the continent visit the Lake George region for Americade, and many of them become enamored with the area's offerings enough to make return visits, which also generate revenue.
Lake George motel owner Salim Amersi recognizes how important Americade is to the local economy.
He generously offered to pay Americade the $15,000 increase in DEC fees to assure that Dutcher would keep his rally in Lake George.
Such an offer is laudable, but it shouldn't be necessary. The state should not be levying unjustified charges on businesses - particularly ones that provide such huge benefits to the area economy.
Hopefully, local officials and businesses will be successful in lining up an alternate, free site for TourExpo for 2011 and beyond and we can retain Americade, which most all of us embrace.
Meanwhile, the state should abandon their unreasonable demand for additional cash. They should be reducing wasteful spending to make up their $10 billion deficit, rather than looking towards business enterprises to pony up.
Thom Randall is editor of the Adirondack Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.