Genesee County manager proposes allocation of $240,000 in ARPA funds for tourism 'branding' initiative
Understanding the importance of tourism to the local economy, the Genesee County Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee is endorsing the utilization of federal American Rescue Plan Act money to fund a Chamber of Commerce-driven “county branding initiative.”
The committee, after a brief pitch of the plan by County Manager Matt Landers and Chamber President Erik Fix on Wednesday, voted to forward a resolution to spend $240,000 over three years – including $139,000 this year – for chamber officials to develop and implement a strategy to increase tourism.
“The Chamber has indicated to us that it lost a lot of funding in bed tax during 2020 due to the pandemic,” Landers said. “Tourism is specifically laid out in the federal legislation as an acceptable use for the ARPA money.”
Fix said he worked with county Compliance Officer Pamela LaGrou to put forth a number of initiatives to attract more visitors to Genesee County, with rebranding and social media/website development at the top of the list.
He said part of the money will be used to hire an outside consultant to assess the state of tourism in the county, noting that a company previously working with Livingston County left a “105 page memo of a list of things that could be done.”
The plan includes focusing on downtown Batavia, including the hiring of a part-time “Main Street coordinator,” Fix said, and also to use technology to monitor tourists’ activity during their stays in Genesee County and to create a “central landing page” on the internet.
“Our goal is to build a collective spirit and energy throughout the community,” he said. “if we do it right, it will lead to business development and growth.”
Landers reported that about $8 million of the $11.1 million the county received in ARPA funding will go toward the Countywide Water Project, with another $2 million to expand broadband capability in the county.
About $150,000 is being allocated to cybersecurity and the remainder is being “held out for future opportunities,” he said.
The county has until 2024 to allocate the ARPA money and until 2026 to spend it.