Gov. Andrew Cuomo (center) hangs out at an outfitter shop in Indian Lake during the Adirondack Challenge weekend in July.
Members of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Thursday, Nov. 7 approved a resolution to hire the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST), based in Lake Placid, to manage its tourism marketing program for 2014.
The ROOST/Lake Placid Convention and Visitors Bureau — formerly known as the Lake Placid/Essex County Visitors Bureau — currently provides tourism marketing for Essex County, the towns of North Elba and Harrietstown, and the villages of Lake Placid and Saranac Lake. Now the group will add Hamilton County to its roster.
“Obviously the two counties worked together in a pretty powerful way on Adirondack Day in Albany, so we’ve done some events and we’ve got some experience working together,” said Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Farber. “And I think it could be a really exciting time for us.”
The resolution was unanimously approved — 8-0 with Benson Town Supervisor Ermina M. Pincombe absent — according to Board of Supervisors Clerk Laura Abrams.
This move by the Hamilton County supervisors represents a split in the current county position of economic development and tourism director, which includes planning services on the county Industrial Development Agency.
The Hamilton County website lists many services provided by the office: websites, lodging, advertising, promotional literature, events, I Love NY matching funds, research, travel information, small business support, startups, expansion, financing, loans, advice, business and marketing plans, and regulatory assistance.
That’s a lot for one tiny office.
County supervisors are now re-evaluating the position after Economic Development and Tourism Director Ann Melious left the job earlier in the year and moved to California. Bill Osborne, who retired from the position in January 2011, has been filling in temporarily. When Osborne had the job, Farber said it was difficult for one person to find the correct balance between managing economic development and tourism. It seemed the county made great strides toward tourism marketing but more attention was needed for economic development. They found they were simply asking one person to do too much.
“We did fortunately, with the North Country Regional (Economic Development) Council, have some success on economic development money for broadband and some projects, so it isn’t as if we didn’t make headway,” Farber said. “But Ann had the same basic experience that Bill had ... We’re going through another interview process, and we’re saying the exact same things that we did twice prior to the applicants.”
It was time for a breather. In September, members of the county’s Tourism and Economic Development Committee discussed splitting the jobs, even hiring someone else for tourism marketing. The supervisors decided to draft a request for proposals and see what options were available.
“We said, wait a minute. It’s time that we really took ourselves seriously and put the structure in line with what we’re saying,” Farber said. “How do we split this apart? How do we create the kind of bandwidth and attention that is necessary on the economic development side so that we actually accomplish some of what we’re talking about? How do we put some emphasis on tourism destination planning and the need for lodging and some of those things that we’ve given a high priority to?”
Hamilton County received and opened four RFPs for the tourism marketing contract and members of the Tourism Committee reviewed them at their Oct. 29 meeting.
“The Board of Supervisors has narrowed the field determining that the ROOST proposal offers the greatest benefit to Hamilton County,” the resolution states.
The contract is for an amount not to exceed $250,000, which includes $25,000 in administrative costs. The $250,000 is about the same amount currently spent on tourism in Hamilton County and includes matching state funds, according to Farber.
On Monday, Nov. 4, members of the Essex County Board of Supervisors unanimously gave their blessing to ROOST’s RFP submission to take over the tourism marketing program in Hamilton County. ROOST Executive Director Jim McKenna sees tourism marketing in the Adirondack Park as a regional approach, not an “us-versus-them” tactic for counties to steal visitors from each other.
“When we talk tourism and tourism marketing, the Adirondacks are the primary driver of why people come here,” McKenna said. “All of our research clearly shows that outdoor recreational activities are the No. 1 driver on a year-round basis.”
By combining marketing efforts — which is already happening with some outdoor recreation activities — Hamilton and Essex counties can be more efficient.
“What we don’t want to see is inefficient use of duplication of efforts for the same messaging and the same type of marketing,” McKenna said. “I think everybody’s starting to understand that consolidation from that point of view is a good thing.”
The contract would be for one year, starting Jan. 1, 2014.