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CITY CONSIDERING $1 MILLION LOAN TO HELP TOURIST AGENCY FUND CAMPAIGN

Mayor Vince V. Anello has suggested a way to save much of the 2005 Niagara tourism marketing campaign, but the City Council will have to approve the idea.

Last year, the city set aside $1 million in Seneca casino local share dollars for the future new terminal at Niagara Falls International Airport. Anello has suggested lending that money to the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. until the current casino cash impasse is resolved.

"The marketing for tourism has to be done now," Anello said this week. "The urgency for the money is now."

The Seneca Nation has delayed turning over its 2004 local share revenue for months, although nation officials have said an announcement is expected today. The delay has cost the NTCC, Niagara's tourism marketing agency, its best chance at getting top marketing value for the money and repeating its documented successes of the 2004 season.

If the City Council approves the $1 million short-term loan, "I think we'll be able to do the majority of what we had planned," said NTCC President David Rosenwasser. "But there are deadlines we missed we won't be able to meet. No amount of money can buy that time back."

Even if the money is turned over to state officials today, it won't flow immediately because local politicians can't agree on how to divide it.

As a result, the NTCC board last week slashed its planned budget, gutting spending for the 2005 marketing season. The $2.4 million budget was cut to $1.3 million because of the continuing impasse, said Thomas Weeks, board chairman and president of Grand Tours.

Taxes on Niagara County hotel and motel rooms make up the Niagara marketing agency's other main source of support.

The agency's planned $1 million advertising campaign was supposed to be funded with the NTCC's share of about $11 million in slot machine revenue due to the host community under the Seneca Nation's agreement with New York State.

"This will be devastating news to tourism stakeholders and for our economy as a whole," Weeks said. After the resounding success of last year's advertising campaign, Weeks said, it's "just mind-boggling that our elected officials would kill one of the few growth industries in our region."

Last year, the NTCC oversaw a $1 million marketing program that produced a 30-to-1 return to the local economy in tourist spending, according to a Niagara University study.

State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston, and Anello have been unable to agree on how the local share should be divided.

Still, the measure, if approved, would allow the Niagara tourism industry to salvage much of the season, Rosenwasser said. "This would put us in a much better position to do our job, and benefit the economy of our entire region."

e-mail: agalarneau@buffnews.com

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