The3rd meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism was held on Thursday, October 16, 2003, at 10:00 AM, in Natural Bridge State Resort Park, Slade, KY. Senator Katie Stine, Co-Chair, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called the roll.
Present were: Todd Cassidy, Tourism Development Cabinet; Wilson Francis, Natural Bridge State Resort Park; Sheila Kuczko and Vicki Kidd, Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development (SEKTDA); Veronica Smith, Senate Leadership; Shannon Stuart-Smith, Red River Gorge Climbing Coalition (RRGCC); Alan Banks, Whitaker Bank of Wolfe County; Charles Crowe, Mayor – Revenna; Tom Williams, Mayor – Irvine; E.J. Benzendahl and Tim Eling, USDA Forest Service; Ginger Willis, Estill County Judge Executive Office; Wallace Taylor, Estill County Judge; Larry Riddle, Wolfe County Office of Economic Development; L. C. Reese, Lee County Judge Executive; Everett L. Marshall, Lee County Magistrate; Greg Stotelmyer and Steve Kaufmann, WTVQ-TV; Bert May, Kentucky League of Cities; Betty Buckingham
Members:Senator Katie Stine, Co-Chair; Representative Thomas Kerr, Co-Chair; Senators David Boswell, Alice Kerr, Daniel Mongiardo, Joey Pendleton, Jerry Rhoads; Representatives Royce Adams, Rocky Adkins, Eddie Ballard, Carolyn Belcher, Buddy Buckingham, Perry Clark, Howard Cornett, Tim Couch, Ted "Teddy" Edmonds, C.B. Embry Jr, Bill Farmer, Keith Hall, Mike Harmon, Dennis Horlander, Stan Lee, Thomas McKee, Brad Montell, Ruth Ann Palumbo, Tanya Pullin, Dottie Sims, Ancel Smith, John Will Stacy, Tommy Thompson, Charles Walton, Mike Weaver, and Robin L. Webb.
LRC Staff: John Buckner, Committee Staff Administrator; Laura Taylor and Karen Armstrong-Cummings, Committee Analysts; and Cecilia Perry, Committee Assistant.
Chairman Stine welcomed all of the members to the meeting. With a quorum present, motion was made, seconded and passed to approve the minutes of the last meeting. Chairman Stine then introduced Dr. Wilson Francis, Director, Natural Bridge State Resort Park. Dr. Francis welcomed the committee to the Natural Bridge area and gave a brief history and overview of the park.
Chairman Stine introduced Commissioner Susan Whitaker, Tennessee Department of Tourism Development. Commissioner Whitaker discussed her experiences in dealing with Tennessee tourism and rural development. Commissioner Whitaker discussed the many different approaches to market tourism in Tennessee on a business level and on the state level. She commented on using public figures such as Mel Tillis and Dolly Parton as promotional tools to help enhance tourism in the state of Tennessee. She said that mere advertising can not create your brand and that it is not good practice to rely on past successes. She gave examples of businesses such as Dollywood that have divisions whose primary focus is potential initiatives to reach targeted audiences and to research visitor concerns or complaints so problem areas can be addressed efficiently. She added that rural areas are as inviting to attract tourism as urban areas and promoted using the natural resources and beauty that each state possesses.
Representative Cornett commented on his visits to Pigeon Forge, TN. He also stated that he was very impressed by the Commissioner’s presentation and discussed the mountainous areas of his district. He stated that various trail areas needed to be developed further and that Kentucky should put money into such areas to promote their growth and development.
Representative Edmonds recognized local government officials visiting from his district: Mayor Charles Crow, Ravenna, KY; Mayor Tom Williams, Irvine, KY; Wallace Taylor, Estill County Judge Executive; L.C. Reese, Lee County Judge Executive; and Everett L. Marshall, Lee County Magistrate.
Representative Pullin asked about the level of state involvement regarding tourism in Tennessee. Commissioner Whitaker said that repeat business is huge in east Tennessee and they believe in generating dollars to feed infrastructure. She also added that Tennessee was a sales tax driven state.
Senator Boswell asked about the relationship of the state and federal governments partnering to maintain the integrity and physical appearance of the Smokey Mountains. Commissioner Whitaker said that both governments work very well together and have a passion for promoting the state’s natural beauty. Currently, state and federal governments are working together on Clean Air Act projects.
Representative Lee thanked the Commissioner for her insight and asked about programs that she had administered that were not successful. She said that one of the bigger problems that she faced was excessive personnel who had few job duties. Commissioner Whitaker also said that she has found that the standard use of ad campaigns were outdated because they had no concerted marketing effort. She said that coop advertising had been very successful. With coop advertising the businesses must design a marketing plan that has measurable goals to receive funding. If the marketing plan is not met, the business is not likely to receive funding the following year.
Chairman Stine introduced Secretary Ann Latta and Todd Cassidy from the Tourism Cabinet. Secretary Latta discussed tourism in Kentucky and some recent trail development in rural areas. She also spoke on the Tourism Development Act and the Tourism Finance Authority.
Chairman Stine asked if it would be more appropriate for other regions to take advantage of the Tourism Development Act in clusters or on a individual basis. Mr. Cassidy said that the critical mass is what decides if this kind of an investment is accessible. In past experiences, interested parties contact the Tourism Cabinet and a representative then meets with the party and helps to determine if the business meets the specific criteria. He indicated that it is more difficult for rural areas to take advantage of the Act.
Representative Adkins said that specific language was added to the Act in an effort to make it more user friendly for rural areas. He urged the Cabinet to set forth a marketing plan that will attract private developers so that a partnership can be made and the Act can provide the benefits that it was initially designed to offer.
Representative Webb asked for the smallest yet most successful example of a business that has taken advantage of the Act. She also asked if the new language added to the Act did indeed allow a partnership and was it being utilized. Latta said that Glassworks or Heaven Hill would be the smallest business examples for taking advantage of the Act. She also stated that the new language was being utilized and provided examples of the Act making lodging available at some of the state parks. She indicated that the funding is readily available but the Cabinet does not recruit businesses to take advantage of the Act.
Senator Kerr commented on the many tourism opportunities that Kentucky has to offer and promoted using the natural resources of the state to increase tourism.
Representative Cornett stated that the committee needs to consider more initiatives supporting tourism development because he thinks the state would experience immediate results.
Representative McKee commented that the Tourism Development Act was the perfect place to develop lodging at the state parks, and asked if high quality standards for lodges presented a problem. Secretary Latta said that the quality and standards of the parks must be upheld. She said that the parks have an image to sustain but the Cabinet tries to be flexible whenever possible without sacrificing the reputation of the parks.
Chairman Stine gave a brief overview of rock climbing issues in the Natural Bridge area. Secretary Latta discussed state policies on rock climbing and shared concerns such as the impact on vegetation. She said that the Natural Bridge area is the only state park area that would appeal to climbers because of Red River Gorge.
Chairman Stine introduced Mr. Tim Eling and Ms. E. J. Bunzendahl from the Daniel Boon National Forest Service. Mr. Eling discussed the acreage involved in the rock climbing areas of Natural Bridge. He discussed the archeological concerns of rock climbing in the area and concerns involving the lives of certain species of plants that live mainly in the Gorge. Mr. Eling went over the National Forest Plan of 1985 and said a newer version was in the process of being printed. The plan outlined recreational use around cliff areas pertaining to campers and climbers.
Ms. Bunzendahl discussed the potential damage brought about from climbing due to the number of climbers in a particular group. She pointed out that four or five climbers leave little or no damage which does not present a problem. Groups of 30 or more increase the concerns for potential damage to the forest area and these concerns have led to certain areas being fenced off and climbing access denied.
Chairman Stine introduced Shannon Stuart-Smith, Executive Director, Red River Gorge Climbing Coalition. Ms. Stuart-Smith gave a visual presentation of rock climbing techniques, opportunities and experiences in the state. She said climbers are supporters of conservation and have volunteered to help forest representatives preserve the environment. Ms. Stuart-Smith stated that rock climbers were being restricted from state parks unnecessarily.
Representative Webb asked Secretary Latta for the major concern with rock climbing on a state level. Secretary Latta said that the major concern was with the environmental damages caused from rock climbing.
Senator Kerr asked Ms. Stuart-Smith if she was aware of other states regulations on climbing. Ms. Stuart-Smith gave background information on the state of Oregon and their ability to see the potential and opportunities created from rock climbing. She said that rock climbing was becoming a popular sport and could increase tourism in the state of Kentucky.
Chairman Stine introduced Sheila Kuczko, Executive Director, Southern and Eastern Kentucky Tourism Development Association (SEKTDA). Ms. Kuczko provided a synopsis of programs offered by their organization. She said SEKTDA’s goal was to promote, develop and expand the existing and potential tourism industry throughout Southern and Eastern Kentucky. She provided statistical data concerning the 42 counties that they represent and discussed projects for the upcoming year.
Chairman Stine thanked all the guests for their presentations. The motion was made and seconded for adjournment. The Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism adjourned at 12:45 p.m.