Local chambers of commerce and tourism folks have been taking a lot of flak lately. Take for example, the recent photography debacle. It seems that some believe that the The Adirondack Regional Tourism Council has been working on putting local photographers out of work by encouraging others to abandoned them in favor of, get this, flickr. The Landscapist has the story in two parts (1, 2), but it basically comes down to the Council’s requiring that photographers give up all the pay for, and rights to, their work (a much lamented practice):
It’s hard to criticize too severely (but not without some vigor) someone for trying to get something for nothing while stating so in a forthright manner – that seems to be part of human nature – but when they do it with a slight-of-hand photo-rights grab photo contest they have stepped over the line. At that point they are nothing more or less than scam artists.
Copyright and use-right issues can be an expensive and tricky business when dealing with most professional photographers and with a substantial number of informed amateurs. Corporations and professional organizations, to include tourism organizations, are acutely aware of this. Rights-grab photo contests are their way of avoiding the issue.
Apparently, it’s not the first time. One commenter on the issue noted that:
Our last economic development officer kept suggesting that I should “donate” images to her very well funded (using my tax dollars) office … I told her I would be thrilled to just as soon as my much anticipated “donation” of a 1Ds MkIII arrived from Canon. I’m still waiting for it.
Some see Todd Shimkus, president & CEO of the Adirondack Regional Chambers of Commerce, as part of the problem. He’s been outspoken (and tax-funded?) on conservative issues in the Adirondacks. Witness his latest attack on the APA, blaming them for a lagging Adirondack economy:
The culture of the APA, the backgrounds and interest of its staff and appointees, and the political environment in which it exists all militate against serious focus on the Adirondack economy — even though the agency is required by law to balance the region’s environmental and economic interests in all its decisions.
That’s an interesting take on the subject, especially given the Shimkus’ own record of political activism and his apparent failure of the Adirondack photography industry. The day before his organization was trying to take the wind out of the sails of local professional photographers, Shimkus was telling his conservative friends about the “broad economic benefits of snowmobiling and point[ing] to an industry estimate that snowmobilers spend $3,000 per season on tourism-related businesses, including food, lodging and other needs.” In Shimkus’ view, those needs apparently do not include the goods and services of local professional photographers.
The Adirondack region is not alone in questioning the role of local economic development efforts. A recent post over at Fault Lines: The Greater Utica Blog entitled Lost Chamber, Lost Jobs, argued that “the Mohawk Valley Chamber of Commerce is a disgrace and an insult to its home community. It must accept significant responsibility for Utica’s decline.” In a second post two weeks later, the writer took a virtual tour of all the region’s websites – it’s worth a look.
On a related not-so-successful note, the much touted Adirondack Regional Business Incubator is still looking for space after plans to renovate an old warehouse in Glens Falls fell through.