Somerset County tourism providers get a financial boost
SEVEN SPRINGS — Mary Lee Stotler said Wednesday during the annual Somerset County Tourism Grant Award ceremony that the $3,525 received for Mayapple Marketplace in Stoystown “is huge.”
Stotler worked in community development for years, and what she learned was if someone local doesn’t step up to build awareness about what a town offers and to help businesses grow, a community dies.
“If you think someone is going to come around and save your town, it is not going to happen,” she said.
Mayapple Marketplace is a general store that has become a place for local residents to hold events, she said.
The project that obtained a tourism grant for Stoystown involved a partnership of Old Towne Distillery, The Experience Farm, Pearson Pottery, Summer Smiles Honey Farm and Mayapple Marketplace. The partners plan to use the money for brochure design, creation and distribution, as well as roadside signs to entice visitors to the Flight 93 National Memorial to explore Stoystown.
“We have not been able to do the level of work we wanted to, especially partnering with other businesses, without this grant,” Stotler said. Stotler was among the representatives from 36 tourism-related groups, organizations and businesses in Somerset County who shared a total of $369,497 for 37 projects as part of the annual tourism grant program. The ceremony was held in the Grand Ballroom at Seven Springs Mountain Resort.
Now in its 16th year, the program provided the largest grant amount since its inception, according to Anna Weltz, public relations director for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau.
The bureau administers the program. Previous highs were $338,197 in 2015 and $319,392 in 2014, she said.
The grant amounts ranged from $911 for the Casselman River Watershed Association to $67,500 for Seven Springs Mountain Resort. Jennerstown Speedway received the second highest grant amount, $45,393.
Grant recipients must now provide at least a 25 percent match, according to state law. The match can be in the form of in-kind services, cash or volunteer time.
The grants are funded by 40 percent of the annual proceeds of Somerset County’s hotel tax, which was implemented in 2002 and raised last year to 5 percent. The remaining 60 percent is split between the visitors bureau and the county.
A committee reviews applications and awards the grants. The visitors bureau tracks the grants and collects reports from recipients when projects are completed. Committee members are Commissioner Pat Terlingo, Seven Springs CEO Eric Mauck, Somerset Med Services general manager George Coyle, PBS Coals land manager John Weir and Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau senior director of marketing Kristin Ecker.
Mauck opened the ceremony.
”You are the tourism partnership that drives the tourism economy so we can be stronger and we can grow,” Mauck said. “Tourism is the gateway for injecting these monies into making your business and other businesses grow.”
He said $4.8 million has been awarded to local projects and organizations since the program’s inception.
Terlingo told the audience that it was his “honor to be part of awarding the grants.”
”Everybody here deserves exactly what you are given,” he said. “It is not enough, but it is a start.”