CURWENSVILLE – Representative of organizations, which make up Curwensville On the Go (COG), gathered for their annual banquet last night, hosted by the General Federation Woman’s Clubs Curwensville Woman’s Club at the Curwensville Community Center.
Those organizations include the Business and Professional Women, GFWC Woman’s Club, Lions Club and Rotary Club. In addition to updates from the various organizations, the group heard from two main speakers, Holly Komonczi of Visit Clearfield County and Hildred Rowles, who updated everyone on the ongoing streetscape project.
Komonczi explained to the group what VCC is all about and how it helps the county. She said the tourism authority began in 2005 when the commissioners decided to break away from the larger, multi-county group they had been a part of and formed the Clearfield County Recreation and Tourism Authority. A few years ago, the board of directors approved changing the name to Visit Clearfield County.
She noted that, according to the state, a tourism promotion agency needs to be appointed by the county government and regulated by state law, especially in regards to how funding is spent.
VCC is solely funded through the 3 percent hotel tax. Whenever someone stays at a hotel in the county for 30 or fewer days, their bill includes a tax of 3 percent. That money has been designated by the commissioners to be used by the county’s tourism promotion agency. The county gets more than 200,000 visitors per year. In 2014, that meant the hotel tax generated $596,598 to be used to market the county.
Komonczi presented a fact sheet to those present, noting assets and attractions as well as some of the numbers associated with tourism.
Assets include 102 miles of the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, four man-made lakes, 45,000 acres of state game lands, 187,000 acres of state forest, two state parks and two natural areas, a wild plant sanctuary, trout-stocked fishing areas and the only covered bridge on the West Branch of the Susquehanna River at McGees Mills.
Some of the attractions include Bilger’s Rocks, Curwensville Lake Recreation Area, the Winkler Gallery of Fine Art, the Liddle Gallery, Grice Museum, DuBois Harley Davidson, Denny’s Beer Barrel Pub, Ultimate Alpaca Farm and Dream Catcher’s Alpaca Farm, Shower’s Field, Bloody Knox, Shagger’s Inn Waterfowl Sanctuary and many others. There are six golf courses, five museums, four wineries, three day spas and two microbreweries.
Approximately 444 jobs are created by visitors to Clearfield County. Komonczi said for every 96 people in a hotel, one job is created. In the past two years, six hotels opened in the county and two more are opening soon.
What is done with the money? The tourism authority has several avenues of spending, including the annual travel planner, which is distributed nationwide and around the world, including to Canada, Spain, England and many other countries. VCC is working on a new Web site, and Komonczi said it is difficult to keep up with changing technology, but they work hard to keep abreast of new things. Also, there are video projects, brochures, billboards, etc.
Recently, VCC purchased a new marketing van, which travels around the county, the state and even to events and shows out of state. She said billboards for VCC cost $2,200 per month on Interstate 80, a $26,400 a year expense.
The van, which is mobile, cost $38,000 and it is getting noticed she said. Komonczi said she was sitting at a red light in Harrisburg and could see people around her trying to get a better look at the van.
She added they are always looking for new ideas.
How has this helped Curwensville? Komonczi noted in the past five years Curwensville Lake has received $60,000 for improvements, including building new cabins, restroom upgrades, improved trails, etc. and visits are up.
VCC offers three grants: a promotional 50/50 matching grant for up to $7,500, a tourism development grant for up to $25,000 and a planning grant to help groups pay for needed plans for projects.
The other speaker for the evening was Rowles, who talked about the streetscape project in the borough. He noted that last year the Blueprint Committee addressed the COG and since then has completed a merger with the Curwensville Development Corp., forming the Curwensville Regional Development Corp.
He noted that last year the community, through the borough council, donated $1,000 for training to help the members become more professional and help lead Curwensville into the future. That investment, he said, has since returned a $3,000 environmental education grant for the tree ring project at Irvin Park, a $5,000 mini-grant for a signage project in Grampian and a $25,000 tourism grant from VCC for bathhouse renovations at the lake.
In May, Rowles formed a team and they have been working on a design plan and development. The group meets monthly and currently has a plan about 500 pages in length. Soon, he said they will be looking to apply for $3 million in funding for projects.
Last night he presented a list of goals and objectives for the first time. The goals include: image perception of the downtown, increasing awareness of downtown Curwensville as a visitor’s destination – develop a multi-year tourism and marketing plan that includes branding, strengthen existing businesses and recruit new businesses in an effort to develop a viable economic base, consistently promote the downtown to attract consumers and increase economic activity, improve the visibility of the downtown, build a stronger business network and strengthen the organizational activity between downtown businesses.
Rowles challenged the organizations to think about how they can participate in the future of Curwensville in regard to these goals. “CRDC cannot do it on its own. We have a strong community and you people are its strength,” he said.
New officers were also introduced. They are Bill Williams, president; Susan Pyke as vice president, Susan Wingard as secretary and Janice Elensky as treasurer.
Williams said people often ask why COG still exists and said next year things are going to change and he will be calling people for meetings. “COG is the machine of Curwensville – it’s time for COG to be important again.” he said.