Cooperstown gets caught up in the moment. Click HERE.
President Barack Obama visited Cooperstown on Thursday, using the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum as the backdrop to announce new initiatives aimed at attracting more visitors to the United States.
Obama is calling on the secretaries of Commerce and Homeland Security to cut the entry time for travelers at 15 of the country’s largest airports, along with efforts to enhance airport technology and boost global marketing campaigns.
“Tourism translates into jobs and it translates into economic growth,” Obama said to more than 150 guests during his speech inside the museum Thursday afternoon.
But he said it is not just about tourism.
“I’m actually here to talk about jobs,” Obama said at the start of his 15-minute speech. “We have to do more to spur growth, economic development and create jobs.”
“We want to bring in more visitors faster and more jobs faster,” he added. “If they come into (John F. Kennedy Airport) faster, they come into LaGuardia faster, then they can get to Cooperstown faster. And they can start seeing Joe DiMaggio’s glove faster. They can see Babe Ruth’s bat faster.”
Before he arrived in Cooperstown, Obama met with several CEOs of travel and tourism companies at the White House to discuss ways to expand the industry. Some of their priorities include:
u Expanding the use of automated passport kiosks at 25 airports by the end of the year
u Creating a task force with members who will coordinate international events such as large conferences and sporting events
u Developing a platform for local, state and tribal organizations to partner on building tourism websites and mobile applications
u Partnering with Brand USA to create tourism campaigns using agriculture to draw people from East Asia.
“I’m here in Cooperstown to talk about some new steps that will lead to more tourism not just within America but getting more folks to come and visit the treasures, the national treasures that we have all across this country, including the Baseball Hall of Fame right here in Cooperstown,” Obama said.
Last year travel and tourism accounted for $1.5 trillion in economic activity and supported 8 million jobs nationwide, he said. In 2013, about 70 million travelers visited the country. Obama is looking to boost that number to 100 million by the beginning of the next decade, because “meeting that goal is going to help create jobs here in New York.”
At the Baseball Hall of Fame, 16 million people have visited the museum since it opened in 1936. Nearly 300,000 tourists visit each year, and every visitor contributes an estimated $500 to the regional economy.
Aside from Obama’s visit, this year marks a significant one for the museum — it is celebrating its 75th anniversary. Also, this summer’s inductees include fan favorites Joe Torre, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox.
“The Hall of Fame has been a catalyst for tourism since it has opened,” said Jane Forbes Clark, chairwoman of the museum’s board of directors, who spoke before Obama took the stage. “We can honestly say that the state’s campaign for tourism has helped this region see a significant surge in visitation.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo was scheduled to speak during the event, but arrived late. He flew to Cooperstown after accepting the Democratic nomination for governor at the state Democratic Convention on Long Island earlier in the day.
“We are so grateful that he picked Cooperstown to come and make this announcement,” Cuomo said to reporters after Obama’s speech. “On a very practical level, it is great publicity for Cooperstown and the state of New York.”
Cuomo touted the state’s $170 billion tourism industry, pointing specifically to its impact in upstate New York. He said tourism supports 1 of every 12 jobs across the state.
“His message resonates with us,” Cuomo said. “Tourism is big business in the state of New York. It is a business that we have invested in heavily and which we have been working in very hard.”
Obama never drove down Main Street, where more than 100 local residents and business owners were hoping to sneak a peak of the president entering or leaving the Hall of Fame. Barricades were set up by police to block the section of Main Street in front of the hall.
After sneaking around the back of the building in his motorcade, Obama took a tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is the first sitting president to visit the museum, which has also welcomed former presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton.
During his tour Obama looked at Babe Ruth’s bat, shoes that “Shoeless” Joe Jackson wore and a signed Carlton Fisk jersey. Obama also left behind a little something of his own — the jacket he wore when he threw out the first pitch at the 2009 All-Star Game.
“I love baseball. America loves baseball. It continues to be our national pastime,” he said. “And for any baseball fan out there, you’ve got to make a trip here. Places like this institution, the Hall of Fame, have something to do with jobs and economic growth.”
Before he was elected president, Obama served as a U.S. senator from Illinois and is a fan of the Chicago White Sox. The first thing he said to the crowd gathered at the Hall of Fame was, “There must be some White Sox fans here somewhere.”
Before leaving, Obama signed the Hall of Fame’s guestbook with his address — 1600 Penn. Ave. Washington, D.C. — and a little note: “Go Sox!”