Higher hotel tax promoted as a benefit to Centre County
Forty-six Centre County nonprofits and private businesses will receive $725,500 in tourism grants for 2019-2020 from the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau — among them, seven new grant recipients.
Those first-time grant recipients received a total of $74,000 and included the Boalsburg Farmers Market, Centre County Pomona Grange No. 13, Happy Valley Music Fest under Lucky Dog Management, PA Parks and Forest/Friends of Rothrock, the Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation, Pine Grove Mills Farmers Market and Tussey Mountain Ski Corporation.
“The tourism grant program is an opportunity to help local nonprofits, and, for the first time this year, private businesses, to bring more visitors into the county and enhance the overall tourism experience,” said CPCVB Executive Director Fritz Smith. “This funding ... helps these organizations and initiatives grown, enhances and raises greater awareness of their offerings, and in doing so, they’re contributing greatly to Centre County’s attractiveness as a tourism destination.”
This year’s grant total is the largest it’s ever been, said Centre County Board of Commissioners Chairman Michael Pipe. “It’s truly about community and engaging this community in the ability to market itself and to promote tourism and recreation in Centre County,” he told a crowd of grant recipients, media and CPCVB members. “The investment we’re making today is historic. ... Next year we’re going to be breaking that record with close to $1 million.”
County commissioners voted to double the hotel tax from 2.5% to 5% earlier this year and it went into effect April 1. The new tax is expected to generate about $2.1 million in additional revenue for the tourism bureau, Smith has said, and 20% of that goes to the grant program.
In 2017, visitors to Centre County spent $794.2 million, created more than 500 jobs and contributed to $41.5 million in state and local taxes, said Smith.
Tussey Mountain Ski Corp. in Boalsburg, one of the new grant recipients, will receive two $3,000 grants to promote its events CelticFest and Oktoberfest to audiences beyond central Pennsylvania and to try to attract bigger artists, said CPCVB.
“We’re really excited at Tussey Mountain to get to work in contributing to the larger effort of shining a light on this beautiful area that we all share,” said Aaron Weyman, Tussey Mountain director of marketing. “We feel we’ve carved out a nice little niche of fun, popular entertainment for the local communities here and the surrounding areas, but we feel there’s great potential for more.”
Boalsburg Farmers Market, in partnership with the North Atherton Farmers Market, will use its $6,000 grant to organize Centre County’s farmers markets under an umbrella organization called CentreMarkets for marketing and promotional purposes, said CPCVB.
Farmers are scattered around the county and can “tend to be a bit headstrong,” said Rebersburg farmer and Boalsburg Farmers Market representative Lyn Garland, so organizing them under CentreMarkets creates a great opportunity for visitors to easily find a farmers market on any given day.
“Farmers markets themselves have been struggling with competition from other places, so we’re very thankful to have the people from the visitors bureau realize that farmers markets are an asset to Centre County and can attract visitors,” she said.
CPCVB is partnering with the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County to promote agri-tourism in the area, said Smith, and helping grow the reach and scope of farmers markets is a large part of that.
Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation is using its $5,000 grant to develop a film festival and workshop space for intergenerational filmmakers across the country, starting with an event this fall, said filmmaker and Penn State Assistant Professor Pearl Gluck, who is also a marketing committee member of the PRC.
“I’m excited that through the commission and this grant, we’re getting the opportunity to bring other people into Philipsburg ... to discover some of the hidden gems there,” she said.
Gluck said she envisions teaching film workshops, helping local students and residents with their filmmaking and helping promote the film festival locally. She said she’s looking forward to figuring out what audiences want, what the community wants and what local artists want to create.
Another component of the festival will be bringing people together who want to restore historical theatres theaters like the Rowland in Philipsburg, working with Rowland board member Rebecca Inlow and figuring out how to incorporate the the theater’s history into any future designs, said Gluck.
“From my perspective, the Rowland (Theatre) is beyond a gem ... 100-plus years later it’s still stunning, and it still has this energy when you walk in the room, and I feel like for Philipsburg ... (this project) will put the Rowland back to the energy it was,” she said.
“This isn’t a one-off event, this is the first year, we’re starting on a smaller scale ... it’s going to hopefully grow and blossom and become a large festival,” said PRC President Eric Kelmenson. “... Restoring a cultural icon will go a long way to restoring people’s faith in Philipsburg, but also it’ll have a transformative effect on an economic level.”