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Consultants collect data on economic development, city tourism impact

Williamsport City Council appears eager to see a citywide market analysis to quantify the economic impact of tourism.

An inventory of tourism assets such as those from sports events, arts and theater, music and special events’ festivals, outdoor recreation, breweries, distilleries, and the use of retail and commercial spaces related to attracting tourists may be part of the scope of the analysis led by Delta Development Group, a city economic development consulting firm.

In a quarterly report to council, Teresa Sparacino, of Delta Development Group, said the city administration of Mayor Derek Slaughter and Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce are assisting to quantify the economic impact tourism has on the city.

The administration granted the Sun-Gazette with a copy of the report when it was requested following Thursday’s presentation.

Efforts are under way to put together a strategy that might include estimated annual economic impact of tourism as a means of assisting in business recruitment and economic development funding proposals.

The firm has met with Jason Fink, president and CEO of the Williamsport-Lycoming Chamber of Commerce to identify sources of data collection to inform such a study, Sparacino said.

The chamber does not have access to visitor data beyond hotel tax revenue reports but is willing to facilitate a business survey and assist in connecting with key businesses for the study, she said.

Next steps might be developing a survey for downtown businesses to gather information and by looking at such information as the types of businesses, employment figures and assess the percentage of revenues attributed to tourism and tourists.

The work toward the analysis could also involve compiling a list of tourism-related businesses in the city for survey distribution and list what attracts people to Williamsport, including open space, recreation, bicycle and walking trails and the proximity to the Pennsylvania Wilds and miles of forests, streams and rivers.

The result would, ultimately, be a comprehensive report quantifying tourism impacts and a brochure created for business recruitment, she said.

Council President Adam Yoder suggested Delta officials also review the work done previously and currently by the economic revitalization committee. He also lauded the administration for pursuing such economic development strategy and analysis.

Intersections, parks and

neighborhood improvements

In the quarterly report, a list of projects that include upgrades to intersections, parks and neighborhoods were provided to council.

The firm was successful in getting the city a $900,000 grant through the Commonwealth Financing Authority for multimodal purposes and the downtown safety improvements. These are specifically for East Fourth Street and Campbell Street with project costs at $1.48 million.

The city has a Green-Light-Go grant application of $326,796 with a $81,669 required match for traffic signals at East Fourth Street and Mulberry Street. The grant award is pending, she said.

The city has submitted a Greenway Trails and Recreation Program grant of $245,625 with required match of $43,346 for Young’s Woods Park improvements that include a basketball court redo and sidewalks.

The city has a Commonwealth Financing Authority Local Share Account grant of $648,096 for Shaw Place Park improvements submitted in March and expected to be awarded in July. The improvements include expansion of a walking trail, construction of a pump track, resurfacing tennis courts and resurfacing the main parking lot. The consulting firm and the city are meeting May 26 to discuss this project and grant.

The city has a $70,000 C2P2 grant with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources on the city Comprehensive Recreation, Open Space, Green Infrastructure Plan. That requires a $70,000 match and is pending with award winners notified in October or November.

The firm discussed a Greenway Trails and Recreation Program grant for the Susquehanna Riverwalk and a maximum grant of $250,000 with a 15 percent match. That is under discussion only and the neighborhood assistance program grant for housing improvements and blight remediation which requires contributions by private sector contributors of $50,000 per business for the match. This program may work in tandem with improvements planned in the Park Avenue Neighborhood Improvement Project area, Sparacino said.

Additionally, the firm is reviewing any funding sources through the Commonwealth Finance Authority for traffic signal modifications, a grant that has a deadline for submission of June 31.

Delta also is looking at the state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant compliance regarding Muncy Bank Park at Historic Bowman Field.

Specifically, Delta has been working with Pat Russell from Anthony H. Visco Jr. Architects to obtain all payroll certifications for the clubhouse improvements to ensure compliance.

It also has looked at documentation by working with Stantec, a third-party reviewer appointed by the Office of the Budget, for all documentation required for the administration/compliance of the grant.

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