Guest Editorial: Nine million tourists just two hours away

By Dave Riordan, Executive Director
Catskill Revitalization Corp, Inc.

When properly managed, this resource is renewable, provides tremendous economic return, conserves energy, generates more and better services for the community and provides a wide variety of jobs. The resource is tourists. The Catskills were built on them. There is a pool of nine million potential tourists just a short distance away and they will come here and leave their money in the pockets of this community if given a chance. We have an incredible opportunity to help make that happen and it is through our strong support of the Belleayre Resort at Catskill Park that we can see the communities of the Catskills thrive once again.

The proposed resort that will straddle the Delaware and Ulster county line is a $400-million, private-sector investment. New construction, together with adaptive reuse of historic structures, the incorporation of green building techniques and landscapes with recreational features managed by sound environmental practices are planned. It sounds great. There will be money made. The company that builds and operates it will enjoy great success if they keep the needs of their guests foremost in their minds. Yet this corporate message can only really be delivered by the people who interact with the tourists. These ambassadors of hospitality will be the employees of the resort. They will be the members of this community who are willing to learn new skill sets and work hard. They will be the ones who smile, who want to live here and who want to see the villages of our Catskill Mountains thrive.

Earning potential
One of the concerns often heard is that the jobs created at the resort will not provide a living wage. For some of the new employment opportunities that is true. They are not meant to. They do not need to either. Part-time employment in the world of tourist attractions is a reality and a benefit. Young people and adults are given an opportunity to learn something new, earn some money and work with people who, for the most part, are in a good mood. They are on vacation, they are wearing a smile. If they’re not, then the job of this employee is to fix what is wrong and make that person want to return to the venue. It’s not that  hard to do. It doesn’t take a genius to care enough to help someone and they’d be getting paid to do it. 

The developers project full-time employment of more than 500 people. There will be lots of service staff for sure. There will also be many management, technical and facility maintenance positions that will swell the payroll. Steady jobs contribute to many of the key elements of a thriving community and a sense of security and confidence encourages people to relocate to an area. As this happens those shuttered restaurants reopen their doors. Entrepreneurs invest in Main Street businesses. Families grow, school enrollments rise, properties get bought and sold and the tax base stabilizes. Local government can then provide increased community services and the quality of life will improve for residents of the region and the visitors who come to enjoy it.

There are nine million tourists a couple of hours away from here. They have money in their pockets and they want to put it in ours. We can provide clean, safe and sustainable opportunities for them to do that by building The Resort. If we don’t, then we have only ourselves to blame.

Editor’s note: The Catskill Revitalization Corp, Inc. is a non-profit economic development corporation serving the Catskill Region. For 30 years CRC has owned and managed the 45-mile-long railroad corridor passing through seven towns in Delaware and Schoharie counties. They operate the Delaware & Ulster Railroad and the Catskill Scenic Trail, a 26-mile-long Rails to Trails project.