County renews tourism contract

FONDA — The Montgomery County Legislature Tuesday voted to renew its annual tourism promotion contract with the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce.

The contract is $55,000 for one-year starting retroactively on Jan. 1.

After the vote, District 1 Legislator Martin Kelly asked County Executive Matt Ossenfort several questions about the tourism program.

“Is the chamber, are they still in the process of giving us quarterly reports on how they are administering our tourism?” Kelly asked.

Ossenfort said he’d recently sat down with Gina DaBiere-Gibbs, tourism director of the Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce, and discussed several points of emphasis Montgomery County has with respect to encouraging tourism.

“There wasn’t a formal report, but there was more discussion on strategy, especially as it relates to heritage tourism and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done there. Actually, a number of us are going to be attending a heritage tourism conference coming up and trying to pull in some folks from around the state,” he said. “So, there’s no formal report as of now, but we did request some information from Gina that we can share such as where our marketing is going and some of that type of that stuff, so I think when we have something ready to present [we] will have that, but no quarterly report that I’m aware of right now.”

“So, there is tourism happening?” Kelly asked with a grin.

“There is marketing for tourism happening, I don’t know, with all of the snow, how much tourism we’ve had,” Ossenfort said.

The Fulton Montgomery Regional Chamber of Commerce administers the tourism program for both Fulton and Montgomery counties. In January the Fulton County Board of Supervisors approved a $79,835 contract with the chamber for management of Fulton County’s Tourism Development Program for 2017.

Ossenfort said he believes the chamber is the right agency to handle Montgomery County’s tourism program and that the annual contract is no longer controversial. In 2012 Montgomery County designated the Montgomery County Department of Economic Development and Planning as the county’s tourism promoter, but then went back to the chamber the following year.

“There have been a couple [of legislators] who’ve had different opinions, but I think the general feeling of the legislature and myself is that, it’s a natural fit given the regionalization the chamber is pursuing and it’s a natural fit to have Montgomery County working with our chamber,” Ossenfort said. “This also frees up our economic development team to focus on grant writing and the things that they need to do to bring dollars into the county from the state and feds.’

Ossenfort said heritage tourism, a concept that includes showcasing the historical aspects of Montgomery County, will be one of the major focuses of the tourism program going forward.

“One of our greatest assets is heritage tourism. We are promoting it, but we lacked a comprehensive plan, and we lack coordination with all of the various sites, a lot of which are staffed with volunteers and have odd hours of being open,” he said. “Really, the major point of emphasis is we need to bring everybody together and develop a comprehensive game plan for the entire county. Otherwise, we’re all just kind of going in separate directions.”

By Jason Subik

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