Local officials pledge help to bolster area's economy
By Jay Braman Jr.
The economic summit held at Belleayre Mountain Ski Center Tuesday got out the message that local governments want to help the little guy fight to survive the current recession.
And while officials from both Ulster and Delaware county were on hand with similar messages, it was noted that Ulster is outspending Delaware when it comes to tourism promotion, something that at least one official would like to see change.
The event, sponsored by the Belleayre Region Lodging and Tourism Association, featured expert panelists who were on hand to help hospitality-related businesses learn about the various resources and services available to them on a local, state and federal level, including financing, marketing, business planning, grant funding and energy efficiency upgrades.
Ulster County Executive Mike Hein attended the regional economic summit, designed to enhance job retention and growth by assisting tourism related businesses in the western Ulster County/ Catskill Mountain region.
“Tourism is a $471 million industry in Ulster County and provides over 8,000 jobs,” Hein said in a prepared statement. “Businesses in western Ulster County play a critical role in the vitality of that industry and I will do everything I possibly can to support them and to facilitate access to the resources that the county and other organizations can offer to ensure their ongoing success.”
Last year, Hein played an instrumental role in bringing together a coalition of public and private ski resorts, along with multiple county governments, to promote a “Ski the Catskills” spring skiing marketing initiative. The program was so successful, he said, that it led to continued ski resort joint marketing efforts with a 2010 regional discount card program.
In December, Hein successfully advocated for an additional $8.3 million in federal stimulus funds to repave 23 miles of Route 28 roadway and shoulders, from Route 375, in West Hurley to the Delaware County line.
“The vastly improved Route 28 transportation corridor will provide tourists and residents alike with a much safer and much more pleasant driving experience,” Hein added.
Bob Linge, executive director of the Belleayre Regional Lodging and Tourism Association, was pleased with the session, which had about two dozen in attendance.
“We are delighted to be sponsoring this event and we are grateful for the ongoing support provided by County Executive Hein, for our industry and our region. I’d also like to thank all of the organizations who are giving their time and expertise to strengthen our business community,” Linge said.
But, he added, “This is not just an Ulster County event but a Delaware County event as well.
Peg Ellsworth, the executive director of the MARK Project, a non-profit rural development agency serving Delaware County, was one of several panelists at the event. While pleased with the economic development work being done regionally by many on the local, county and state level, she had a few choice words for the leadership of Delaware County.
After hearing from Hein and several other Ulster County officials at the session Tuesday, Ellsworth noted that she was “disappointed” with what Delaware County spends on tourism promotion.
“Ulster County’s tourism budget increase this year is double Delaware County’s entire tourism budget,” she said, adding that she hoped Delaware County leaders were listening.
Participants from Ulster County include Rick Remsnyder, Ulster County director of tourism, March Gallagher, Ulster County deputy director of economic development, who helped organize the event and served as panel moderator.
Other organizations and individuals represented at the event included Ulster County Banking Consortium- Steve Hack, V.P./commercial loan officer; Ulster Savings Bank; Ulster County Development Corporation, Paul Rakov, director of business development and marketing; Mid-Hudson Small Business Development Center- Myriam Bouchard, certified business advisor; Catskill Watershed Corporation, Michael Triolo, economic development director; Delaware County Economic Development, Glenn Nealis, director, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority represented by Kema. Inc., Edward Smyth, director and United States Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Beverly J. Von Pless, business programs specialist.