By DENISE A. RAYMO
---- — 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.
Restocking initiatives and creation of a fish hatchery and fish farms are also part of the plan to ensure the waterways are kept replenished with stock.
The chamber also hopes entrepreneurs will surface to create businesses that cater to the needs and expectations of high-end professional anglers, such as luxury lodging “for those seeking cosmopolitan waterside accommodations” and also places to stay for those who want a more rustic experience that still includes modern conveniences.
There are also opportunities, planners say, for retail businesses such as those selling everything from cold drinks to quality cigars.
“We have found that many anglers love the idea of a cold drink and a fine cigar after a successful fishing day and find the idea of such a treat extremely appealing,” states a FISHCAP executive-summary document.
Such experiences, as well as professional-guide services and trips, could create repeat business and word-of-mouth advertising.
Customized fishing guides and websites targeted toward self-guided outdoor enthusiasts would also create opportunities for new businesses.
Legislators have not decided if they will back Leitz’s suggestion on partnering with St. Lawrence County on FISHACAP.
But anyone seeking more details can attend public hearings on the tentative budget set for 4:30 p.m. Thursday at the Harrietstown Town Hall in Saranac Lake and at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, in the fourth-floor Legislative chambers at the County Courthouse in Malone.
Email Denise A. Raymo:
email@example.comFISHCAP, an initiative of the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce to promote the St. Lawrence River Valley as the fishing capital of the world, has had economic success since it was launched in late 2010. According to a fact sheet from the New York State Tourism Economics report, tourist-generated tax dollars in St. Lawrence County amounted to $111.4 million in 2011, an increase of $5.5 million from 2010 and $10 million more than 2009. Local-tax dollars generated by tourism in 2011 equaled $6.7 million in 2011, up $330,000 from 2010 and $401,000 from 2009, the report states. And every $1 spent by tourists in St. Lawrence County in 2011 had a return of $34.90, it states. Citing State Department of Environmental Conservation data, FISHCAP officials say that the issuance of one-day fishing licenses for residents went from 145 in 2009-10 to 663 in 2010-11; seven-day resident-fishing licenses went from 93 in 2009-10 to 629 in 2010-11; non-resident one-day licenses went from 162 to 600; seven-day licenses grew from 1,097 to 3,379; and non-resident fishing season licenses went from 575 to 885. To learn more, visit www.fishcap.net.