We are all familiar with the concept of investing. Whether it be investing in tangible assets such as stocks, bonds and real estate, or more abstract concepts such as education or the community, the notion of investing involves committing already gained resources to a goal or action, the end result being the ultimate increase in value and prosperity to the goal and, therefore, to the original principal of the investor.
We invest our resources every day here at Washington County Tourism. Put simply, we dedicate our resources to marketing the county to visitors as a destination worthy of investing their leisure dollars into an overnight and/or day trip from their home. Their local spending investment, in turn, invests in local businesses such as attractions, shops, eateries and hotels, and returns to the visitor a new, unique and satisfying experience.
The success of local businesses then creates an increase in value for them, for the community and ultimately, for us, in the form of partnership opportunities, room tax revenues and local participation. From there, the investment cycle continues, with value increasing to our agency, local businesses, and the community as a whole.
Investment experts advise to invest not only on a regular basis, but to contribute larger investments when funds are available and the investment is worthwhile.
Once every year, we invest in Washington County tourism assets in a big way through our Tourism Grants Program. In 2001, the Washington County commissioners agreed to invest in county tourism development by enacting a 3 percent tax to be levied on every hotel room sold in Washington County. The tax is collected by the county treasurer’s office and provided to the tourism agency as the main source of revenue for our marketing programs, with a portion of this money returned to qualified, local non-profit tourism related organizations through the annual grant program. Applicants must meet guidelines and criteria proving their potential to attract visitors from outside Washington County to their event or property, and all applications are reviewed by the Tourism Grants Committee. Capital project, marketing and event advertising grants have been considered in the past, with the grants program providing cash and advertising grants to organizations such as the Washington County Fairgrounds, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, Burgettstown Area Redevelopment Corp., the Montour Trail, Pennsylvania Bavarian Oktoberfest, Rivertown Events on the Lower Mon, Little Lake Theater, PONY Baseball, Borough of Charleroi and many, many others.
Since 2001, Washington County Tourism has invested almost $1 million in worthy tourism development projects, returning the room tax revenue investment made to our agency back to the community.
Applications for the 2013 Tourism Grants Program are available now. Perhaps you can join us at our “Tourism Grants Kick-off Event and Grants 101 Seminar,” beginning at 9 a.m. Feb. 22, at the International Headquarters of PONY Baseball & Softball in North Franklin.
We’ll provide information on the program and take you step by step through the guidelines and application process. For more information on the grants program and the event, call our office at 724-228-5520. We look forward to investing in your future again in 2013.
J. R. Shaw is executive director of the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency.