evlBy Jann Wiswall

When Cattaraugus County distributes bed tax funds each year, the three major chambers of commerce in our area — Ellicottville, Olean and Salamanca — have the ability to promote their municipalities in national, regional and/or local media for the entire year. And according to all three chambers’ executive directors, these funds are critically important in getting the word out about all the reasons to come to their towns for a day, a weekend or a nice long vacation.

According to the county, a portion of the bed tax funds must be used for “advertising and promoting various … events, festivals, attractions and experiences that will attract more visitors” to the region. In 2013, bed tax revenues were down by 3 percent countywide. Ellicottville alone, however, was up by 8 percent.

In 2013, the bed tax generated $221,706 to be used for these purposes throughout the county during 2014. The Ellicottville Chamber of Commerce received $75,824, the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce received $38,577 and the Salamanca Chamber of Commerce received $18,623.

The balance of $88,682 is being awarded to 24 entities — mostly smaller chambers of commerce, non-profit organizations, festival sponsors and tourism groups — through a grant process administered by the county’s Department of Economic Development, Planning & Tourism. Those grantees have not yet been announced.

According to the Ellicottville Chamber’s Executive Director Brian McFadden, the bed tax funds are “hugely important to Ellicottville as a whole, representing 80 percent of our annual advertising and public relations budget. This allows us to purchase ads in major publications and to generate media interest and third-party endorsements.”

The Ellicottville Chamber promotes the entire community, not just one business or activity.

“Our advertising is intended to get people to come to Ellicottville, stay for at least a night and take advantage of more than just one activity or event,” explained McFadden.

Over the years, the chamber has been able to place ads in publications such as The New York Times and USA Today — enabling the organization to reach a wide audience.

For the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce (GOACC), “the county bed tax allocation plays a critical role in our ability to promote tourism in the greater Olean area, particularly in conjunction with major events like the Taste of Olean, Rally in the Valley, the Home and Garden Show and Santa Claus Lane,” said Larry Sorokes, the chamber’s new executive director. “Our access to funds for advertising, publications and other publicity helps us in drawing thousands of people into Cattaraugus County.”

Likewise, Salamanca Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Sheehan calls the allocation “vital to our organization. We use these funds to help promote our entire membership, which has grown by 42 percent in the last year,” Sheehan said.

This year, Sheehan plans to use the funds to produce and send a Salamanca promotional brochure out to 400 visitor centers and other distribution points in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other targeted areas.