Members of Schoharie County’s business community are pushing for increased collaboration among the county’s various economic development groups with the aim of boosting tourism in the region.
The effort is being led by the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce, which recently has been organizing “mixer” events that bring together local economic development organizations with the public and each other.
“We’re trying to stay connected to all of the smaller groups in the county,” said Nick Castellanos, the chamber’s tourism coordinator. “Just so we all know what we’re doing and we aren’t duplicating our efforts.”
The latest mixer was held Wednesday at Green Wolf Tap Room in Middleburgh and featured the Middleburgh Area Business Association. The chamber held its first mixer at the Roseboro Hotel in Sharon Springs with the Sharon Springs Chamber of Commerce earlier this year.
Castellanos said the events also have another purpose: to gain input from leaders in the local business community on a long-term tourism plan that’s being developed.
“It’s a plan of where the county wants tourism to be, what exactly we want from tourism,” he said.
While the plan is still in its early stages, Castellanos said it will include a “matching partner program” that will leverage state and local funds to increase the advertising capabilities of local businesses.
The chamber’s main goal, he added, is to get the many different groups that operate in the county to work together. These groups include organizations like Schoharie Area Long Term, Schoharie Promotional, the Schoharie Historical Society, Schoharie Valley Association, Cobleskill Partnership and others.
While there are no plans to consolidate any of the groups, Castellanos said, cooperation and information sharing is vital to the overall economic success of the county.
“Each one has a different mission statement,” he said. “We want to know what we’re all doing so we’re not doing the same things.”
Jamie Casterlin, president of the Schoharie County Chamber of Commerce, said the region has so much to offer both residents and tourists. These attractions include Howe Caverns and Secret Caverns, as well as points of historical interest like the Old Stone Fort and Palatine House.
The county is also close to the Capitol in Albany, and is accessible for those traveling to Cooperstown, a popular tourist destination in Otsego County that is home to the Baseball Hall of Fame and Brewery Ommegang.
“What we’re trying to develop is a cool itinerary for people who are traveling through the area,” Casterlin said. “The main goal is to get the word out about Schoharie County and all the different offerings the county has. Not only is it a beautiful place but there’s a lot of interesting attractions.”
County business officials are also trying to capitalize on the growing interest in consuming local products and the farm-to-table trends emerging nationwide. Casterlin said interest in craft beer brewing and distilling also present exciting opportunities for the county.
“There’s a lot of moving pieces, so really what the mixers are for is to bring people together who are working on some of these same ideas,” she said. “It’s really all about partnerships, we’re stronger together, for sure.”