Friday, March 20, 2009

Tourism Product Development Grants Announced!

Press Release from the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority:
The Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) announced today that it is awarding more than $2.6 million to five community projects and serving as a potential loan guaranty to one other through its Tourism Product Development Fund (TPDF). Funding will assist with construction of projects that are expected to further enhance the community while also driving more overnight hotel stays and pumping additional dollars into the local economy.

“While other funding sources are drying up, the tourism industry is working hard to continue to build this community,” noted Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) Chair Ron Storto, vice president of hospitality development for Biltmore Farms, Inc. “The dollars we are pledging today are a much-needed shot in the arm during some particularly tough times.”

The BCTDA voted to award the grants during its most recent meeting, basing its votes on recommendations from the TPDF committee. Recipients of the 2009 funding cycle for the

Tourism Product Development Fund include:
  • The John B. Lewis Soccer Fields which will receive a $500,000 grant for lighting that will enable night time playing,
  • Momentum, The Health Adventure’s new science and health museum, which will receive a $500,000 grant to build an indoor planetarium within the new facility,
  • Pack Square Conservancy which will receive a $500,000 grant for construction of a Visitor Pavilion at Pack Square Park,
  • Asheville Art Museum which will receive a $500,000 grant for its planned expansion of galleries, public spaces, education facilities and visitor amenities,
  • The Moogseum, an innovative interactive exploratorium of science and music to be built by the Bob Moog Foundation, which received a pledge of $600,000 in grant monies over four years, once it breaks ground,
  • And, The Orange Peel, which may receive as much as $300,000 in the form of a loan guaranty, once it gets funding for a planned expansion which includes new seating at the music facility.
In 2000, the tourism industry, and hoteliers, in particular, devised the idea to slightly increase the room tax in order to provide a funding source that could spur new projects that would benefit residents in the Asheville area, while generating additional room nights. With passage of the legislation in 2001, the room tax increased from three to four percent with the additional cent dedicated to capital projects. Visitors also pay state sales tax on their lodging.

“During the past eight years, the tourism industry has become one of the largest non-government funders of civic projects in Buncombe County,” TPDF Chair Todd Morse said. Morse, who is the principal of Chimney Rock Company and an original member of the TPDF, noted that nearly $12 million has gone directly back to community projects since the fund’s inception.

“The dollars spent today translate into jobs tomorrow,” added BCTDA Executive Director Kelly Miller, who also serves on Asheville City Council. “The tourism industry in this County has found a way to provide its own incentive and seed money to jump start projects that are good for the community and good for business. Residents benefit, but the projects will inject more outside dollars into the region, which fuels the entire economy,” he explained.

More than 2.9 million overnight leisure visitors travel to the Asheville area each year generating more than $1.8 billion in economic impact to the region.

In Buncombe County, our hospitality legacy is intertwined with our quality of life,” Storto said. “These are facilities and attractions that add to the visitors’ experience, but still serve the needs of residents of Buncombe County. They make us a more vibrant place to visit and a better place to live. “


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