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REDC Awards Nurture Infrastructure, Ignore History

This post is part of a continuing series on discerning the actual policies of New York State regarding promoting history by following the money it awards through the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) process.

The focus in this post is on where the State awards money in support of cooperation and collaboration. In other words, the awards here aren’t for a specific event or site but are more sweeping in scope. They seek to support multiple organizations and entities working together on behalf of a larger goal than any one group could achieve on its own. There are lessons to be learned here for the history community which is not the recipient of any of these awards.

Central Tier: Multiple Counties
Applicant: Syracuse Convention Visitors Bureau
Project Title: Syracuse Destination Brand Marketing Plan
Description: The “Syracuse. Do Your Thing” brand campaign was launched in 2014. The SCVB plans to utilize the brand campaign to continue expansion of the Canadian drive market; resulting in a boost in traveler spending in the region and longer overnight stays.
Amount: $375,000

Finger Lakes: Monroe County
Applicant: Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council
Project Title: Finger Lakes Vacation Region Market Analysis
Description: The Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council is the official Tourism Promotion
Agency for the vacation region and is made up of the official Tourism Promotion Agencies from each of the 14 counties within its borders. The group plans to commence a destination market analysis that will help clarify and identify marketing goals and priorities for the region that will have the greatest impact on the economic vitality of the Finger Lakes tourism industry.
Amount: $100,000

Long Island: Nassau County
Applicant: City of Long Beach
Project Title: Marketing Promotion
Description: “Long Beach, NY: More Than Just the Beach” is a marketing project, implemented by The City of Long Beach, aimed at increasing both summer and year-round visitors. The 2013 marketing campaign increased tourism, which countered the potential economic downturn post Superstorm-Sandy.
Amount: $300,000 plus $1,000,000 and $1,600,000 in Sandy-related awards

North Country: Clinton, Essex, and Franklin Counties
Applicant: Mountain Lake PBS
Project Title: Adirondack Journeys
Description: Mountain Lake PBS and the North Country Chamber of Commerce will execute a
multi-platform marketing campaign to attract Canadian visitors and businesses to the region. MLPBS will create unique marketing videos, subtitled in French, focused on agritourism, heritage, outdoor recreation and hospitality aligned with “Adirondack Coast” Visitors Bureau branding.
Amount: $138,015

North Country: Essex, Franklin, and Hamilton Counties
Applicant: The Wild Center
Project Title: Adirondack Visitors Marketing and Research
Description: The Wild Center will take on a groundbreaking research and outreach project aimed to increase tourism in the North Country. It will determine the best way to reach & attract the next generation of Adirondack tourists& it will give The Wild Center critical information & support to market its new attraction Wild Walk.
Amount: $372,000

North Country: Multiple Counties
Applicant: Lakes to Lock Passages, Inc.
Project Title: Geotourism Marketing Initiative
Description: Lakes to Locks Passage, Inc. will implement a marketing initiative created to
unify and market two regions to national and international audiences, promoting
authentic experiences and sustainable tourism. The project will develop several
key creative units including interpretive exhibits, video, audio, digital and mobile
Amount: $153,000

Southern Tier: Finger Lakes Tourism Region as designated by NYS (14 Counties)
Applicant: Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance
Project Title: Finger Lakes Tourism Regional Marketing Plan
Description: The Finger Lakes Tourism Alliance will execute a marketing plan that will drive visitation to the 14 county Finger Lakes tourism region. The plan will include efforts to attract domestic and international visitors; and marketing channels will include broadcast media, print, online interactive media, consumer/trade shows, and development of collateral material for distribution.
Amount: $375,000

Southern Tier: Tioga County
Applicant: Tioga County Local Development Corporation
Project Title: Tioga County Visitors and Education Center
Description: The Tioga County Local Development Corporation will relocate the Tourism
Visitors Center and the Records Office – both offices were affected by the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Lee in 2011 and remain in the flood plain. The new location, outside of the flood plain, will allow for easier public access and will be located in a high tourism traffic area that will capture tourists traveling from NYC to the Finger Lakes, Corning Museum of Glass and other regional attractions.
Amount: $112,960

Southern Tier: Tompkins County [also in Central Tier]
Applicant: Ithaca Tompkins County Convention Visitors Bureau
Project Title: Mobile Technology Initiative
Description: The Ithaca Tompkins County Convention Visitors Bureau will start Phase I of a multiphase project that will undertake research, prototyping and deliver a cost effective system that allows real-time digital communications with travelers via their smartphones. The system will support text, video, data, gaps mapping, chat and voice to provide personalized visitor information to travelers regardless of the traveler’s device or physical location.
Amount: $30,000

Western Tier: Erie and Niagara Counties
Applicant: Visit Buffalo Niagara
Project Title: Canadian Marketing Initiative
Description: Visit Buffalo Niagara will use funds to implement the third phase of the Canadian Marketing Initiative, which is intended to build awareness of the shopping market in the Western NY region though increased advertising and market presence in key Southern Ontario markets.
Amount: $250,000

These awards evidence a clear focus on tourism. Theoretically, historic sites might be within the purview of some of these awards but there is no example which leaps out from the descriptions that indicate such an orientation. I can substantiate this observation from my discussions at the recent New York Times Travel Show with some of the very applicants who won these awards. They expressed little knowledge or familiarity with the Path through History program.

Back in the spring of 2012, before the start of the Path through History was pushed back from May to August, I spoke with one member of the advisory board about who would do the work the project entailed. The response (as clearly demonstrated by now) was that there was no staff to do the work to create the paths. In other words, collaboration and cooperation were just talk since no people would be hired or made available to have responsibility to work with multiple sites and locations to create a path. This is why I suggested that Governor Andrew Cuomo’s initial $1 million pledge, the same amount Pataki had pledged in a similar program years earlier, go to hire one person for each of the Path regions who would have the job of making the cooperation and collaboration happen, instead of going to specific sites. Obviously, that didn’t happen and the lack of results for the Path project speaks for itself.

Notice also in these awards how often a tourist or visitor department is the applicant. In theory, these departments could be a tremendous asset in developing actual paths through history yet they are unengaged in the project. As one prominent county tourist department chair informed me, it is not the responsibility of the tourist department to develop history programs, only to promote them once the history community has created them.

One may question this approach, but in practice it reflects the reality of what such departments have contributed to the Path through History. It also serves as a reminder that Governor Cuomo has not sought to engage the county executives, and therefore the county tourist departments, in the Path project either. Why not? When will he? Where are the awards for collaboration and cooperation in the history community? Who could even submit one?


4 thoughts on “REDC Awards Nurture Infrastructure, Ignore History

  1. You are so right on about this. Short sightedness abounds. Seems never to change.
    Keep on writing– we’re out here “listening”.

  2. Peter there are many of the tourism agencies across NYS who are actively involved in the Path Through History Promotions and work closely with the historic sites in their counties and cross promote on a regional basis. Yes these grants have gone to the agencies because they are working hard to present a destination for visitors to come to that is diverse in what New York state has to offer so that a visitor will come for a longer period of time or come back often. We are trying very hard to be inclusive in offering diverse packages and will continue to cooperate with those who want to work to offer a variety of products to the visitors and residence of this state and beyond.

    1. “there are many of the tourism agencies across NYS who are actively involved in the Path Through History Promotions and work closely with the historic sites”

      I’m sorry, but that is a whole lot of bull. The exact opposite is true, and has been demonstrated in this publication many, many times.

      Tens of millions of dollars are spent on tourism in New York State, but the Path through History Project is a little more than a poorly executed signage program.

    2. Thank you for your comments, Mary Kay. I am pleased to see the director of Dutchess County Tourism, former chair of the Mid-Hudson Path through History, and major figure in the mid-Hudson and state tourism world reading and responding to my post.

      Please be aware that the series of posts on REDC awards focuses on the Path through History to identify what if any difference the project has made. Obviously county tourist departments have worked with local historic sites since long before the Path project existed. However as you once told me, it is not the responsibility of the tourist departments to create programs, it is the responsibility of the history community. Then you will promote them.

      If there are things going on beyond the scenes involving the Path through History, I encourage you, just as I did Ross Levi last year, to submit a post to New York History, which he eventually did with Mark Castiglione after it went through the appropriate channels. I suggest you start with the Path projects which have been created in Dutchess County, your own bailiwick. Perhaps then the other county tourist departments will be encouraged to follow your example and submit the Path projects which they have created in their own counties. It would be beneficial for the history community to see the fruits of the cooperation and collaboration, the buzz words of the Mid-Hudson region public meeting in January 2013 which you chaired. This topic is an important one and I will return to it in the post I already submitted about cooperation and collaboration resulting from a workshop sponsored by Senator Gillibrand and on The New York Times travel show in January. We should take advantage of this opportunity for communication and dialog to further the development of programs based on the history of the county, the region, and the state.

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