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Franklin County looking to create centralized tourism promotion website

MALONE — With tourism promotion efforts beginning to ramp up again, Franklin County officials are exploring ways to give people looking for information about events and attractions in the county a central location to conduct their search.

A website that served that function was lost when the county switched its tourism promotion contract from the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) to the county’s own Local Development Corp., County Manager Donna Kissane noted. The changeover took place in February — less than two months before the first case of the novel coronavirus was discovered in Franklin County.

Reestablishing a website that would focus on drawing tourists to the county is “definitely a priority,” Kissane said during a meeting of the county Legislature’s Economic Development Committee on Tuesday morning.

A new website is “one of the major (items) we wanted to get done,” agreed committee chairman Ed Lockwood, R-Malone.

Under ROOST, the county’s three main population centers — Malone, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake — were featured on separate pages on the organization’s website. When the county contract was switched to the LDC, Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake maintained their connections with ROOST at their own expense, but the “Visit Malone” page was dropped from ROOST’s site.

Creating a centralized website to promote the entire county would enable the county to “market together in the digital space the Wilder Farm (in Burke) and the Wild Center (in Tupper Lake),” said county Industrial Development Agency CEO Jeremy Evans.

The county has several options, ranging from a simple no-cost page addition to the county’s existing website to creating a “subsite” on the county’s main site that could serve as an entry point that would both contain information about attractions and events countywide and link to other sites, such as the Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake websites, for even more details, said Andrew Green of the county’s Data Processing and Information Services Department.

Both Phil Hans and Kelly Brunette, former ROOST employees who were hired by the county when the contract changed hands, said it was important the county have control over its tourism promotion messaging and its website. A county-run website would make it possible for the county to maintain continuity in its efforts even if the tourism contract were to be allocated to an entity other than the LDC in the future, Hans said.

County officials hope to meet with a potential vendor that could craft their renewed website in the near future. The meeting should also involve members of the LDC and the county’s Tourism Advisory Committee, Kissane said.

Tourism promotion efforts — and the contract with the LDC to provide them — were suspended over the summer in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the county reinstated the contract in a somewhat reduced form in August as the worst of the outbreak appeared past — and visits to the region rebounded despite the absence of promotional efforts.

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