To the Editor:
Please consider this an open letter to the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators, urging our county representatives to maintain funding for the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce.
While we all acknowledge the reality of these tough fiscal times and the difficult choices that must be made, the fact is the county Chamber generates revenue for the county at a time when it is most needed.
Last year, the Chamber received $200,000 from the county to serve as the official, New York State-designated Tourism Promotion Agency (TPA) for St. Lawrence County. The TPA designation allows the Chamber to receive state matching funds used solely for promotion of St. Lawrence County beyond our borders – across the North Country, the state, the country and beyond. For 2012, those matching funds were $44,000; in 2013 we anticipate double that amount.
Without the TPA designation and the county contribution, we will receive no matching funds from the state. Without necessary staff, the Chamber will cease its tourism function and end its focus on attracting visitors to the county.
What does tourism mean to St. Lawrence County? For the county’s $200,000 investment, it got back:
* $111,427,000 in tourism-generated dollars in 2011, an increase of $5.3 million from 2010;
* $6,969,000 in tourism-generated local tax dollars in 2011, an increase of $330,000 from 2010;
* A $34.10 return on every $1 spent in 2011 by tourists visiting the county.
The Chamber and its FISHCAP initiative – designed to bring anglers from everywhere to our waters – was recently, and appropriately, lauded by the county legislature for its role in securing a top national bass fishing tournament and a potential multi-million dollar economic impact for the county next summer.
Just two years into the FISHCAP program and its strategic state, national and international promotion of St. Lawrence County, non-resident one-day and seven-day fishing licenses sold in the county increased by 370 percent and 308 percent, respectively. And these guests weren’t just fishing – they were eating in our restaurants, sleeping at our hotels and B&Bs and campgrounds, and shopping at our stores.
The St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce is an economic driver and revenue generator for St. Lawrence County. That’s our mission. For a fraction of the county budget, the county gets an outstanding return on its investment. I urge our legislators to allow the Chamber to continue to work for the people and economy of St. Lawrence County, and be part of a solution to these tough times.
Rita Ostrander, President, St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors