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Cumberland County commissioners get briefing on efforts to increase tourism, protect military bases

For the second time this year the Cumberland County commissioners used their weekly Wednesday finance meeting to hear from the agency that handles much of their tourism and economic development functions.

Top officials of the non-profit Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation said they are working to increase brand awareness of the Cumberland Valley, bring in more visitors and protect the region’s military installations, including the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle.

They told the commissioners that the under agency’s 2015 tourism grant program as much as $100,000 will be available this year to support marketing initiatives to draw more visitors and help make their experiences more enjoyable.

That program provides grants, usually in amounts in the range of $5,000, for items such as signage, brochures and product development. Applicants must match each grant dollar by half.

The agency’s tourism marketing efforts appear to be paying dividends. So far this year, the officials said, hotel occupancy rates are the best they’ve been since 2009.

And with a new round of military base closures projected in 2017, the agency is working to enhance the value of the region’s military bases and consider possible avenues for expanding those facilities.

In two weeks or so it expects to select a military planning consultant to complete an analysis of strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and a land use analysis in the event any facility could be expanded to make it less likely to be closed.

A new Web site that went online in April features a tool designed to showcase business opportunities, including a section that will list an inventory of vacant and available retail, commercial and industrial locations.

The board of commissioners in 2005 created the agency to serve as its tourism promotion agency and later expanded that to economic development.

It doesn’t function as a department of county government, although it receives much of its funding through the county in the form of hotel tax revenue and a small allocation from the general fund. It also collects some fees for services provided to businesses and is looking to possibly expand that source of money.

This article was posted on Pennlive.com on May 20, 2015.

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