Franklin Co. chooses LDC to handle its tourism marketing
Franklin County will have a new marketing and tourism agency take over operations next year.
For the past five years, the county’s marketing contract was handled by the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism, which also markets Essex County, Hamilton County and some towns and villages within those two areas, such as the villages of Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake. Come February, the Franklin County Local Development Corporation will take over that role for that county.
The Franklin County Legislature approved the contract Thursday, and the LDC Board of Directors approved it at its meeting Wednesday.
LDC CEO Jeremy Evans said the immediate goal is to smoothly transition the work ROOST has done for the county to his group. The next step would be developing businesses and communities, which would make marketing easier.
“One thing we’re excited about is trying to understand and coordinate tourism promotion with tourism development and actually developing the amenities, the assets and the services in Franklin County,” he said. “Each community is different, and we’re excited to figure out what the goals are of each.
“Marketing is just one piece of this.”
Evans said a good example of this mix of development and marketing is the recently announced Saranac Lake Energize Downtown Fund, which will provide grants to businesses for repairs and renovations using money from the village’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative funds.
“With additional businesses, or strengthened businesses or restored facades, the quality of the asset you’re trying to market has increased, and that makes it easier to market,” he said. “It will result in greater visits and greater stays.
“It’s a virtuous cycle.”
Evans said his group is interested in the tourism contract because it furthers the goal of development in the county.
“Tourism is either the number one or number two industry in Franklin County,” he said. “We’re charged with making sure the economic development in Franklin County is moving forward. This was an opportunity for us to provide a service to the county, and we didn’t want to pass it up.”
Though the LDC and its sister group, the Franklin County Industrial Development Agency, work closely with the county already, they are separate, independent entities, not county departments. The LDC is a nonprofit group, and the IDA is a corporate benefit company whose board of directors is appointed by the county legislature. The LDC and the IDA have the same board of directors.
Franklin County Manager Donna Kissane said the contract with the LDC will be the same as the one the county had with ROOST these past five years.
“That contract is defined by law,” she said. “It’s paid through the (5%) occupancy tax, and the minimum payment is $473,000. That’s guaranteed.”
If the occupancy tax brings in more than the minimum, the county gets 10% of what’s collected.
If the occupancy tax doesn’t meet $473,000, the rest is paid out through the county’s general fund, but in a previous interview, Kissane had said that wasn’t necessary in 2018.
The contract is for two years with three one-year optional extensions.
ROOST initially bid for the tourism contract but did not resubmit when the county had to restart the process due to improper filing.
“We have certain benchmarks that have to meet, and some of them are deal breakers — Iran Divestment form, conflict of interest forms, sexual harassment policies,” Kissane said. “We can’t move forward if any of those are missing.”
ROOST CEO Jim McKenna getting out of the partnership was a good fit for both ROOST and Franklin County.
“We’re still going to work together in some capacity,” he said, “But I think we accomplished what we set out to do. We helped establish an occupancy tax and increased tourism. We look at this as an evolution. The LDC is right in the county office, which is good. I think we all feel good about it.”
Kissane agreed, saying the county’s relationship with ROOST was amicable and profitable.
McKenna said no longer having the Franklin County contract will not be a financial blow to his group.
“We have a lot of new programs on our plate as is,” he said. “We’re on the verge of implementing a community tourism enhancement fund, and the 2023 Winter World University Games is a big effort.”
The community tourism enhancement fund would increase the occupancy tax in Essex County from 3% to 5%, and that extra money would go into a fund for community development. The Essex County Board of Supervisors has yet to approve the increase, although the state Legislature has given its approval.
The World University Games are similar to the Olympics and are expected to bring more than 2,500 student-athletes to Lake Placid and the surrounding area for winter sports competition.