IDA FUNDING: A question worth $50,000

Applause to Legislator Christine Starks, D-Fredonia, for seizing on a key question regarding tourism in Chautauqua County.

Members of the county Legislature’s Planning and Economic Development Committee were discussing a $50,000 agreement with the county Industrial Development Agency for attraction and development of tourism-related businesses. The money will help pay for Michelle Turner, the IDA’s vice president of marketing. Don McCord, county deputy planning and economic development director, noted that Turner works on the LECOM golf tournament at Peek ‘n Peak, the Gran Fondo bicycle tour and “the development of other new events here in Chautauqua County to attract tourism dollars to the county.”

The description made Starks wonder about the definition of a new event or if events receive county funding for only the first year. McCord then said the money was for a position that has worked to get the two events off the ground. Jumping off of Starks’ question, Pierre Chagnon, R-Bemus Point, wondered if there were new county-led events in 2017 or any new events scheduled in 2018.

Both are good questions that we hope legislators will keep in mind as the year moves on. What are the expectations for county government’s share of Turner’s position? Is Turner’s position to run two existing events in perpetuity, or is it to develop new events? How many new events should be developed each year? Where should they be located within the county? There were no new events in 2017 and, at least two months into 2018, it doesn’t appear there will be any new events this year either.

The funding has been approved for 2018, but perhaps some guidelines are needed when the time comes to appropriate the $50,000 in 2019.

And, as for new events, we note the difficulty in starting new events in an off-cycle year for the county’s bed tax distribution. Perhaps, if Turner’s position isn’t creating new events, it can help area businesses and individuals get their own events off the ground.