MALONE — St. Lawrence County recently cast an economic-opportunity line toward Franklin County, and it looks like legislators may take the bait.
Tourism spending has been increased about $50,000 in the tentative 2013 budget, and County Manager Thomas Leitz has suggested about $25,000 be awarded to FISHCAP, an initiative of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce to promote the St. Lawrence River Valley as the fishing capital of the world.
Acclaimed fishing expert Donald Meissner, host of the national WPBS travel-fishing program “Streamside,” is the full-time advocate hired by the chamber to promote the region’s vast fishing opportunities and attract world-class tournaments that draw thousands of fishermen, their families and fans.
Franklin County is considering its contribution in exchange for a promise that at least one of those potentially lucrative tournaments be held within its borders.
Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pat McKeown and Massena Town Supervisor Joseph Gray have spearheaded FISHCAP in part because Gray was concerned about how his community could recover and move forward following the closure of the General Motors plant.
They hoped to create jobs and spark investment in the region by using the area’s most abundant, renewable and sustainable asset.
“We looked at what can we build the economy on,” McKeown said.
‘FILLED WITH FISH’
After brainstorming with key players and others with funding resources, the group decided, “We have fish here; plenty of fish in our lakes and rivers and streams.
“We have 200 of them that are filled with fish,” McKeown said. “There is economic development in fish.”
She said the region’s waterways would attract “tourists with buckets full of money, and they could empty their big, fat wallets and go back home.
“We can build an economy out of what we have, not what we wish we had,” McKeown said.