Washington County Officials Consider ARPA Money to Boost Tourism Marketing Efforts | Local

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FORT EDWARD — A projected $600,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funding over the next three years could pay for a wish list of $225,000 in tourism marketing initiatives, according to a presentation Tuesday to the Agriculture, Planning, Tourism and Development of the Washington County Board of Supervisors. .

Jesse Tyree, director of Black Dog Designs in Glens Falls, recommended five initiatives: $50,000 to create and promote county events, $20,000 for a Shop Washington County promotion, $35,000 for an online “create Your Own Itinerary,” $15,000 to coordinate marketing. with places to stay, especially short-term rentals, and $105,000 for multimedia marketing.

The multimedia initiative would include 15 short videos on county towns and trails of particular interest, such as wine or art, materials made available to social media influencers, traditional advertisements such as maps of presentation and a YouTube channel showcasing Washington County attractions.

Awareness of YouTube “would have a really, really big impact on your portrayal of quality of life,” Tyree said. “It could inspire new people to settle in the area and become contributing members of society.”

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The YouTube videos and ads would reach a younger demographic, bolstering the county’s following for years to come, he said.

Tyree recommended completing all videos within a year to save costs. Since the ski season and the maple season are practically over, filming would continue until 2023, he said. The county would own the videos and other marketing materials, which would be available for other applications.

Online build-it-yourself routes are popular, Tyree said, and can be combined with contests and giveaways. Last year’s “Washington County Experience” giveaway generated about 2,000 new email subscribers, he said. Providing marketing materials to short-term rental hosts is an effective way to reach visitors who want to know what they can do while they’re here, he said.

Washington County Economic Development Director Laura Oswald said Black Dog’s marketing program should be separated from the county’s existing tourism program. She reminded committee members that the board had already taken $60,000 of this year’s ARPA funding to complete her department’s 2022 budget.

Occupancy taxes generated $115,000 for the county last year, with revenue for the fourth quarter up 22% from 2020. Oswald said she would like to put that money in the bank to offset the drop in state funds from I Love New York and to have it available for other projects.

The committee proposed creating a separate line item of $225,000 to cover Black Dog’s proposals and referred it to the finance committee.

Sarah Smiley, director of municipal memberships for Energy Independence Corp., explained how her agency can help fund energy efficiency and renewable energy projects in new commercial construction and building renovations.

EIC is a statewide nonprofit local development corporation that began with a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It helps commercial and non-profit real estate developers obtain privately funded loans at a lower cost than loans from commercial lenders, local development corporations or industrial development agencies. EIC funding could allow developers to include energy efficiency or renewable energy features, such as rooftop solar panels or more efficient windows, that might otherwise have to be removed from plans, Smiley said.

The loans are added to the municipal property taxes of the project. The municipality forwards the loan repayments to the lender. EIC has an upfront fee and adds a percentage to the loan to cover its costs, Smiley said.

Municipalities must pass enabling legislation to participate, Smiley said. To date, 30 counties, 25 cities, including Saratoga Springs and Glens Falls, and 13 villages have signed on. Seventeen projects are completed or in progress. The projects have estimated annual energy savings of $1.2 million and will prevent the release of 164,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide over their lifetime.

White Creek Supervisor Jim Griffith, chairman of the committee, said the program would be another tool in the county’s economic toolbox. Griffith was interested in making the program available to large county dairy farms and a planned cannabis grow facility in White Creek.

Fort Ann Supervisor Sam Hall wanted County Attorney Roger Wickes to review the EIC documents. Griffith said EIC may be invited to the Warren-Washington IDA and Community Development Corporation Forum on April 29 so that area businesses can decide if EIC is a resource they want.

Additionally, the committee discussed whether the county should join the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce. Griffith and Hebron Supervisor Brian Campbell said the chamber will help the county raise awareness of its local programs, businesses and resources, as well as advocate for inclusion in state and federal programs. County Treasurer Al Nolette said the $500 annual fee is minimal compared to other county expenses and would be helpful in helping the county build relationships.

The committee forwarded the request to the finance committee.

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