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Lewis officials consider ramping up trade show marketing

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LOWVILLE — Lewis County officials hope to boost tourism through an improved trade show marketing program, beginning with the planned purchase of a multimedia display.

“It’s very valuable,” senior planner Frank J. Pace told members of the legislative Economic Development Committee on Thursday morning. “It’s a face-to-face meeting. It’s almost like a cold call, but it’s a cold call with thousands of people walking in front of you.”

The committee approved by a 3-0 vote the use of up to $6,000 from the county’s economic development projects fund for the purchase of an 8-by-8-foot trade show display that could be used by county and Lewis County Chamber of Commerce officials. “We’ve got to start moving this county forward,” said committee member Craig P. Brennan, R-Deer River. The proposal still requires approval by the full Legislature, likely at its June 3 meeting.

Mr. Pace said the cost for the display system at a discounted rate through a Lyons Falls business likely would be about $5,100. The upper limit was set at $6,000 to offer some leeway.

The display board will be two-sided to show summer recreational activities on one side and winter scenes on the other. A laptop computer and 30-inch digital television will allow for videos of recreational activities in Lewis County.

“We’re trying to market everything we possibly can in the county,” Mr. Pace said.

The trade show industry continues to grow. An increased presence at the shows will complement the development of a new tourism and recreation website and the creation of cellphone and tablet apps for all-terrain vehicle and snowmobile trails, he said.

Lewis County representatives typically attend two regional outdoor recreation shows in Syracuse and have had a booth at the New York State Fair, although lack of volunteers scrubbed that appearance last year.

As part of the new marketing initiative, county and chamber officials will attend six more shows: the Cleveland Outdoor Adventure Show in Ohio; the Philadelphia Inquirer Travel Show and Erie Sport & Travel Expo, both in Pennsylvania; the Sportsman’s Expo in New Jersey; the Western New York Sport & Travel Expo in Buffalo and the Travel & Vacation Show in Ottawa.

The plan is to have two people — primarily chamber Executive Director Anne L. Merrill and county Recreational Trail Coordinator Jacqueline L. Mahoney — covering each show. The annual trade show budget is estimated at $21,500.

Economic development officials said the funding discussion could wait until budget deliberations this fall and possibly be covered partly through increased funding through the “I Love NY” program, with state matching funds.

Legislator Neil H. Pepper, R-Brantingham, who is not a member of the Economic Development Committee but attended, questioned whether the cost could be split between the county and local businesses.

Mr. Pace said he believes the county must first prove that it is making a valid effort to market the area, adding that the plans are to track progress and trends by collecting customer counts at cooperating businesses.

Committee member Bryan D. Moser, R-Kirschnerville, agreed. “I believe we have to put ourselves out there first,” he said.

County Manager Elizabeth Swearingin noted that a consistent message is key to a strong marketing campaign. She also suggested that marketing funding be separated from economic development money in next year’s budget.

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