Visitors bureau making big plans $100,000 county grant to increase visibility

November 12, 1996|By Suzanne Loudermilk | Suzanne Loudermilk,SUN STAFF

With a $100,000 county grant in hand, a reorganized Baltimore County Conference and Visitors Bureau is moving forward with an ambitious agenda to attract more tourism dollars to the county.

It will work to increase the county's conference business, and serve as a clearinghouse for the area's hotels, restaurants and attractions.

"The most important thing is to be out there and be visible," said Monica T. Baeuerle, the new executive director of the not-for-profit organization. "There's a lot of water, beautiful scenes, historical attractions, lovely hotels, great eateries and shopping here."

In one of its first initiatives, the bureau will seek state legislative approval for a welcome center off Interstate 83 near Parkton -- the first in the county and an attempt to draw some of the 200,000 visitors a year who stop at the nearest center on I-83 near York, Pa.

"If no one knows we're here, they'll drive right on past the county," said Jim McTygue, president of the bureau's board of directors.

So far, the plan for a state-funded, federally run facility has the backing of some legislators, including state Sen. F. Vernon Boozer, a county Republican.

"It's important to get people coming in from an economic standpoint," he said. "I'll see if we can get the money allocated. It's time to get it off the back burner."

To concentrate on marketing the county, the bureau last month moved its office, which it considered a visitors center, from crammed quarters on busy West Chesapeake Avenue to a more quiet location in Towson Commons.

"There was a lot of traffic at the visitors center, but much of it was nonrelated to bringing business to the county," said McTygue of the move.

The new office, on the Pennsylvania Street entrance level of Towson Commons, is accessible to visitors, with displays and brochures for such attractions as the Fire Museum of Maryland in Lutherville.

In addition to the grant approved by the County Council last month, the bureau expects to fund its efforts with a $20,000 state grant and money from fund-raising events and membership dues.

"We do not have a lot of money," said Baeuerle of the bureau's $161,000 budget. "We need to spend it wisely."

The bureau also will be keeping an eye on the county's hotel tax which, at 8 percent, is the state's highest and goes into the

county's general fund, rather than to the bureau.

"The biggest key is that it doesn't increase. We also would like a portion of it," Baeuerle said.

To promote its goals, the bureau -- which had been part of the county Department of Economic Development until it was cut by then-County Executive Roger B. Hayden five years ago -- soon will go on the Internet. It is in the process of designing a map that will detail the county's amenities and the 60 marinas along 173 miles of county shoreline, which Baeuerle sees as having the potential to become like Sausalito, Calif.

Pub Date: 11/12/96

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