Montgomery County

Montgomery County Legislature votes to take over tourism promotion

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Montgomery County Office Building off Broadway in Fonda on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
PHOTOGRAPHER:

ERICA MILLER/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER Montgomery County Office Building off Broadway in Fonda on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

The Montgomery County Legislature Tuesday night voted to make the county government the “Tourism Promotion Agency” for the annual “I Love NY” Tourism Matching Funds Program — effectively ending its past practice of contracting with the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce for the service.

The resolution to make the change was sponsored by Legislature Chairman and District 7 Legislator Michael Pepe and cosponsored by District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly.

The Legislature’s vote was technically 7-2, due to the absence of District 6 Legislator John Duchessi and the passing of District 8 Legislator Joe Isabel, both counting as ‘no’ votes, as per the Legislature’s voting rules. Isabel for years had been a vocal advocate for the county reducing the role of the chamber in its tourism promotion.

District 9 Legislator Robert Purtell, chair of the Legislature’s economic development committee, explained why he supports the change.

“I believe it is time for us to change the direction on tourism in Montgomery County,” Purtell said, “and I feel we will all be more involved if we perform those duties in-house.”

For 2022, Montgomery County provided the regional chamber with $95,000 worth of funding, down from its pre-pandemic level support of $120,000 annually. The funding was mostly from the $50,000 “I Love NY” program, of which half the money came from the state. Along with reducing its support, the county also formed an in-house tourism committee that includes members of the Canajoharie Palatine Chamber of Commerce and the St. Johnsville Chamber of Commerce and two county staff members now assigned to tourism promotion. The two are Morgan McClary, county director of communications, and Vincenzo Nicosia, director of program development at the county Business Development Center.

Montgomery County’s action follows the decision by Fulton County earlier this month to create its own tourism bureau, operating under the county Planning Department, ending its annual contract with the regional chamber for tourism promotion, cutting off another $178,000 in support for the chamber.

Mark Kilmer, president of the regional chamber, did not make a public appeal for the Montgomery County Legislature to stay with the chamber, as he had done earlier in the month with the Fulton County Board of Supervisors. He said Wednesday he was unable to participate in an interview, due to being in meetings all day, in part because the chamber is still working toward organizing two of its largest annual tourism events for next year. He provided the following written statement via email.

“All the leadership team and Board of Directors are reviewing the Chambers position, evaluating staff, budget, and ideas to propel the organization forward and continue to benefit the membership,” Kilmer wrote. “I should also stress that the Chamber has always had a robust tourism program with signature events like Walleye Challenge, the largest single tourism event in Fulton County, as well as the Craft Beverage Trail. The Chamber will continue to work closely with members to develop programming to fit their unique needs and feels a sense of freedom working outside the confines of the ‘I Love NY’ program.”

Kilmer has previously said the revenue from the two county tourism contracts includes money that can only be spent on tourism, as well as some funds the chamber uses for about 20% to 25% of its operating budget of approximately $500,000 annually. He has said the loss of the two contracts will likely result in some chamber staff being laid off.

The Montgomery County Legislature also voted Tuesday night to amend its application for the ‘I Love NY’ program and apply for $120,000, with a local match of $60,000, a larger tourism promotion grant than the county has applied for in the past.

Pepe sponsored the amended resolution with the larger grant, and it was approved unanimously by those present.

Purtell said the county wants to enhance its in-house tourism promotion and now is the time to do it.

“It is a matching funds grant, and we want to leverage our financial participation,” he said.

Categories: Fulton Montgomery Schoharie, News, News

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