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Tourism chief says fund shortage makes job 'impossible'

As this struggling city fights for tourist dollars, the area's tourism director is ready to call it quits.

David E. Rosenwasser said Tuesday he does not have enough money to run Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp.

The nonprofit organization did not receive an expected $800,000 from the Seneca Niagara Casino last year and is operating on only about half its $2.2 million budget.

"I was promised certain resources that the corporation didn't receive," Rosenwasser said. "If your budget goes down 4 or 5 percent, you can deal with it, but if you're down 40 percent, it's impossible to do the job."

Rosenwasser's three-year contract is up for renewal in June. However, if the financial situation does not change, he said, he's leaving.

"This is a wonderful place to live," said Rosenwasser, who was reared in Newport News, Va., and now lives with his wife, Susan, in Youngstown. "But it's terrible to do business here. There is an undertow of people who don't want to see change. It's a constant battle."

Rosenwasser said he is negotiating for similar positions in Missouri and California. He is the top candidate to head the Convention & Tourism Commission in St. Charles, Mo., according to city administrator there, Allan Williams.
Rosenwasser is the first president of Niagara Tourism & Convention Corp., which was formed in 2003 to consolidate the often divisive Niagara County tourism office and the Niagara Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau.

In an update on the corporation's efforts he presented to the Niagara Falls City Council on Monday, Rosenwasser said tourism racked up some good numbers in Niagara County in 2005, with occupancy rates, room rates and room revenue all showing increases over the previous year's figures.

Corporation employees who staff two visitors booths along Interstate 90 booked $1.25 million in rooms and packages for the county, he said, and that was achieved on a shoestring budget.

"We went through all of 2005 with no funding from the casino," he said. "This is a small organization that will have to begin cutting programs and people. I'm the highest-paid person here, so I think I should be the first one to be cut."

Rosenwasser came to Niagara Falls from a similar position in Green Bay, Wis., where he was president of a private promotional firm that ran the convention bureau, produced trade shows and managed Lambeau Field, home of the National Football League's Green Bay Packers. He also has been a marketing executive for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and Six Flags theme parks and has overseen the convention center in St. Paul, Minn.

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