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Jefferson County officials disagree with Cuomo’s proposed tourism strategy

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Jefferson County officials don’t see much sense in Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s new region-based tourism promotion strategy.

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Mr. Cuomo said the existing model of funding county tourism boards with state money has brought unhealthy competition.

To remedy that, the governor wants to encourage counties to work together by grouping them into regions, which will then compete for money to market attractions in those regions.

However, that plan takes away the county’s ability to promote the product it knows better than anyone: itself.

“We know our county. When you start regionalizing it, you start diluting it,” said Scott A. Gray, chairman of the Jefferson County Board of Legislators’ Finance and Rules Committee.

Mr. Gray said counties are not locked in a fierce competition with one another.

It’s not like the private market where companies in the same business are in direct competition, he said. Each county has something different to offer and promotes itself accordingly. When there’s an opportunity that’s in the best interest of multiple counties, local officials work together — Mr. Gray cites the snowmobile trails shared by Jefferson and Lewis counties as an example.

Gary R. Stinson, town of Rodman supervisor and president of Barnes Corners Sno-Pals Snowmobile Club, said one-third of the club’s trails are in Jefferson County and two-thirds are in Lewis County.

“We have a very good working relationship with both counties,” Mr. Stinson said.

He said he could see how the governor’s proposal might work for interior counties that don’t border Canada, but he is wary of the effect it could have here.

Concerned some counties will receive preferential treatment based on size and population, Mr. Stinson said he would hate to see tourist destinations such as Chaumont and Sackets Harbor not get the attention they deserve.

According to Mr. Gray, some attractions that have regionwide appeal in theory are better marketed according to a targeted local strategy in practice, pointing to the difference in the waterfront between Oswego and Jefferson counties.

“Here in Jefferson County, a large portion of the waterfront is river. A lot of the marketing here is to the Canadian population,” Mr. Gray said, noting Oswego County, which is farther from the border and on the Lake Ontario shore, might take a different approach.

Jefferson, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties comprise the Thousand Islands-Seaway region, according to the state Division of Tourism I Love NY program.

County officials were at a loss when asked about the state money to which Mr. Cuomo was referring. According to them, the only source of funding for tourism promotion at the county level is occupancy tax revenue, which is generated by a 3 percent tax on hotel stays in Jefferson County. All county revenue from the tax goes to the 1000 Islands International Tourism Council.

According to Gary S. DeYoung, council director, the agency, which primarily is funded by the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority, also can apply to the I Love NY program for money.

In an email, Mr. DeYoung said he is not sure what exactly the governor was talking about, because “the current program already encourages regional cooperation through bonuses for multi-county promotions.”

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