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New Opportunity or Impending Disaster?
August 2, 2013 - Ernest Hohmeyer
The dog days of summer are upon us.
In just a few weeks though, town and county governments will be sharpening their pens for pre-season budget football.
They are already evaluating the 2013 season.
One extremely competitive contest that often leads to bad blood between our community teams is how we present ourselves to the outside world.
Before we get into the potential of an exciting new team, let’s get an understanding of some of the players.
The County Teams Essex County is fairly straight up with the Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism (ROOST) setting the game plan funded primarily by visitor attendance. However, there are 6 communities they work with and target individual plays for them. There are also downtown groups and other numerous community-based organizations that are at the heart of local marketing.
Franklin County overall is in a period of transition. They are trying to figure out what kind of visitor football they want to play. There is an existing county tourism program with a part-time director and not a whole lot of money to spend on new strategies.
Who’s on First?
The current program does not have a smooth point of contact like Essex. There are other players vying for county playing time like agriculture & tourism and individual communities.
To acquire more spending resources the County approved an occupancy tax like neighboring counties and created a Tourism Advisory Committee as general manager. They are charged with both offense and defense: make recommendations on the current program and implement an occupancy tax initiative if it ever gets to the league or, in this case, the state for approval.
However, Franklin County is not like Essex County that is completely in the Park. Thus, there has always been this north and south divide. Communities have not felt close to the County team and have largely played in their own respective leagues.
This reluctant warrior approach worked okay until other competing regional teams switched to the West Coast offense known as the internet. Our local small market teams suddenly found they were under-resourced and out-gunned or is that out-webbed? We all know what eventually happened to the Montreal Expos…
Within this whole context are way too-many-to-mention other players including chambers, local, county, regional economic groups and a host of volunteer efforts. Some of the same players play for several teams usually resulting in quick flame-out careers.
Who Gets the $$? So, as the owners of these respective teams contemplate how much they will spend in 2014, we have an unprecedented opportunity to play together or throw on the shackles and play prevent or again in this wacked-out analogy - parochial defense.
We are beginning to work together unlike any other time before. Will the strangulation of budget cuts and votes stop that dead on the field?
In Franklin County in particular, will Tupper Lake and Saranac compete for county tourism dollars again? How will Malone feel about that? What about other county players such as Cornell Cooperative Extension just beginning an agriculture tourism program? What will all of this do to ROOST in Saranac Lake? How will the new county Tourism Advisory Committee charged with coming up with a county program deal with community programs? Where do individual entities fit in such as the Saranac Lake Area Tourism Council, chambers, event coordinators, ARISE and others?
This new spirit of cooperation could get messy in a hurry as the 2 minute warning is about to blow on budgets. Cap that with several political coaching positions waiting to be filled.
So here is one view from those despicable Monday morning quarterbacks:
Strategy vs. Marketing There may be an inclination especially on the Franklin County side to jump into marketing plays. The county Tourism Advisory Committee will need to justify spending dollars in the budget – soon - and there is all this excitement concerning occupancy tax revenue. But a good play is dependent on a good strategy. Hard questions and answers need to be discussed. For example:
1. Franklin County has 2 distinct regions: the St. Lawrence River Valley and the Adirondacks. Should there be one program for both or regional ones? If so how will you manage that? 2. How will the County work with other county marketing entities? 3. How will they work with communities? 4. What is the overall game plan, target audiences, are they same and do they fit our amenities? 5. How will the TAC manage, function and administrate with one another, the county and other players?
Hire a Facilitating Head Coach Local communities, grass-roots groups, a multitude of county players, very different markets are all part of the matrix in Franklin County. The Tourism Advisory Committee is made up of talented general managers. As volunteers they may need a facilitating head coach. There is only so much time and resources volunteers can give and the clock is ticking.
Integrate Community Teams Saranac Lake has already reached out to ROOST. Perhaps it is time that we do the same with Tupper Lake. Maybe we shouldn’t be talking about one team just yet but maybe an effort that plays in tournaments otherwise known as events or business expos. Can we pick members from Saranac, Tupper and perhaps even Lake Placid and Wilmington to work on regional events like an Adirondack Beer Festival, bike races or x-country skiing? Each community has its own strength and good position players. Can you imagine putting them all on one all-star team?
Small or Big Market Team? Ultimately, perhaps there is a way to create a united and coordinated front where Tupper and Saranac Lake are not competing for funding but working together as a regional chamber or on events coordination. The next step is that these local and regional strategies become incorporated into Franklin and Essex County thinking. It’s not top-down but meeting on the same level playing field.
We have an opportunity for a new game. We may have to throw away the old play book. We can continue to fight with ourselves. If we do our real competition in Vermont, the White Mountains and other rural communities may have the last laugh when the whistle blows.
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