Friday, June 18, 2010

Lake George Fears Loss of Millions if Americade Leaves

If you didn’t know Lake George businessmen, you might have been moved, if not embarrassed, by the love they expressed for Americade and its founder Bill Dutcher at a tribute thrown for the motorcycle convention earlier this week. But as someone attending the event remarked to me, “they’re not doing it for Bill, they’re doing it for themselves.”

Here’s how we covered the event in the Lake George Mirror.

“This is a love fest, and I’m loving it,” said Americade founder Bill Dutcher at a luncheon billed as an Americade Appreciation Event, hosted by the Inn at Erlowest on Tuesday, June 16.

Dutcher was explaining why he wouldn’t discuss his dispute with New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation, which raised the motorcycle convention’s fees for leasing space at Million Dollar Beach from $52,000 to $71,000. The fee is expected to rise to $86,000 next year.

That dispute had led some business owners to fear that Americade would leave Lake George and with it, the millions of dollars the event brings to the region every year.
That led Salim Amersi, the owner of the Surfside resort, to offer to raise the $15,000 difference between last year’s fee and this year’s fee.

“My concern as a businessman is that Bill Dutcher will become discouraged and find it easier to move the convention to Vermont, which has sweetened its offers, rather than stay in New York,” said Amersi. “We want those who attend Americade to come back to Lake George.”

If Lake George hoped to persuade Dutcher that it truly appreciated him, it appears to have succeeded.

“I feel like I’m in a scene from the movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,” Dutcher said.
Almost 200 local business owners and elected officials attended the lunch, which was provided at no cost by the Inn at Erlowest.

Convincing New York State officials that Americade has the support of Lake George-area businesses is another reason why he chose to help organize and sponsor the event, said Dave Kenny, the Inn at Erlowest ‘s owner.

“If people doubt we support Americade, this shows otherwise,” said Kenny. “Americade is an economic engine of Lake George, Warren County and the entire region. Americade week is responsible for five percent of every resort’s annual revenues. That translates into $150,000 a year in Occupancy Tax funds.”

Americade attracts approximately 50,000 people to Lake George every June, and the economic impact of the event has been estimated to be more than $40 million a year.
According To Kevin Rosa, the Sagamore’s sales and marketing director, Americade’s contributions in Occupancy Tax funds are used in part to market Lake George as a destination throughout the country.

“As a community, that’s why we’re showing our support. Occupancy Tax funds are not generated locally,” said Rosa.

Joe DeSantis, the owner of Hampton Inn and Suites, said Americade filled rooms at a time of year when they would otherwise be vacant. Holiday Inn owner Mike Hoffman said he had the numbers to prove it.

Revenues during Americade are two to three times higher than revenues generated in the weeks before and after Americade, he said. “Americade is an irreplaceable piece of business that has been coming to the same venue for the past 28 years,” he said. “As a business person I have exactly the same needs as those who run Americade. I need stability and predictability. We must all work together to make sure that our future expenses and Americade’s are both logical and fair.”

Dutcher said he would like a multi-year contract with that would guarantee predictable, equitable and rational increases in the fees to use state-owned properties. “DEC’s unpredictability is worse for business than its fee increases,” said Dutcher. Americade is the largest convention ever to come to Warren County, and New York State is treating it as an adversary rather than as a partner.”

Dutcher added, “It’s a $15,000 increase next year; what’s it going to be the year after that?”

Dutcher said no other open space in Lake George Village was as suitable for the event as the parking lots at Million Dollar Beach. “Unfortunately, New York State has got us; we’re in a difficult position,” he said.

The lack of predictability, rather than an attempt to threaten the community with a loss of business, is why he publicly aired the possibility of moving the event elsewhere, Dutcher said.

Said Ginny Dutcher, who helped create the event with her husband, “We don’t want to move; we live here.”

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror

Photo: Lake George Mirror files

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Anthony F. Hall is the editor and publisher of the Lake George Mirror.

Anthony grew up in Warrensburg and after an education that included studying with beat poet Gregory Corso on an island in the Aegean, crewing a schooner in Hawaii, traveling through Greece and Turkey studying Byzantine art and archeology, and a stint at Lehman Brothers, he returned to the Adirondacks and took a job with legendary state senator Ron Stafford.

In 1998, Anthony and his wife Lisa acquired the Lake George Mirror, once part of a chain of weekly newspapers owned by his father Rob Hall.

Established in the 1880s, the Mirror is America’s oldest resort newspaper.

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