County - Museum collaboration yields fruitful tourism forum

BLUE MOUNTAIN LAKE Tourism as an engine for economic development in Hamilton County was the topic of the day at the symposium held at the Adirondack Museum at Blue Mountain Lake, New York on October 10, 2007. Planned by the Hamilton County Department of Economic Development and the Adirondack Museum, "Smart Actions for Real Growth" attracted more than 70 people. Following a welcome by Caroline Welsh, Director of the Adirondack Museum, Bill Osborne, Director of Hamilton County Tourism and Hamilton County Economic Development set the stage for the day's discussion. Osborne enumerated the four-season attractions of Hamilton County, and provided a demographic profile of the next big wave of leisure travelers - the Baby Boomers. Boomers plan trips on-line. They are looking for activity, variety, high-end amenities, and are willing to pay for value. "What are we doing to prepare?" Osborne asked rhetorically. Osborne also cautioned that the county can not rely solely on tourism to sustain and grow the economy. "We must have private sector employment," he said. Challenges and opportunities were the central themes of presentations by two panels comprised of area business owners and representatives of the private sector. Former Adirondack Park Agency Chairman Dr. Ross Whaley served as moderator. The private sector panel included Jonathan Lane, Charlie John's Store and Speculator Department Store; Carol Young Inserra, Adirondack Hotel; Julius Oestreicher, Prospect Point; Rachel Pohl, Raquette Lake Navigation Company; Tom O'Brien, Wakely Lodge and Golf Course; George and Susan Swift, Melody Lodge, Adirondack Mountain Grill, Village Rentals, Car Wash, Laundromat. Business owners cited attracting and sustaining a qualified workforce, the seasonality of a tourist-based economy, and rising tax assessments as challenges to be met. All of the panel members emphasized the importance of a business web site to attracting visitors to the area. The public sector/support panel consisted of Bill Farber, Chairman of the Hamilton County Board of Supervisors; J.R. Risley, President of the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages; Brian Towers, Chairman of Hamilton County IDA; Paul Beyer, Smart Growth New York; Christopher Leo, Senior Community Developer, NYS Office for Small Cities; Ann Melious, Executive Director, Adirondack Regional Tourism Council; and Craig Stevens, Vice President, Community Bank, Inc. The panel highlighted the opportunities available to business owners in the form of loans and grants, while acknowledging that guidelines for some state-generated monies do not take into account the rural aspect of places such as Hamilton County. For instance, Paul Beyer of Smart Growth New York observed that a majority of our towns and hamlets do not have dedicated grant writers - who can prepare the necessary applications. The panel also pointed out the support services and promotional opportunities that are offered to small business owners in the region. Glenn Pearsall lead the summation of the day's discussions and proposed that additional meetings be held on a regular basis in the future to continue the conversation. Pearsall's suggestion met with hearty approval from the audience.

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