Meeting brings together community groups, ideas


By Jim Poole

Eight community advocacy groups from the Schoharie Valley to Sharon Springs met Thursday to share ideas and see how they could cooperate with one another.
Although most of the organizations have been in existence for years, it was the first meeting of its kind.
Cobleskill Partnership Inc. pulled together the meeting, which included Schoharie Promotional Association, Sharon Springs Chamber of Commerce, Schoharie Valley Association, Route 20 Association, Middleburgh Area Business Association, Heart of the Schoharie Valley and Richmondville Days Committee. (See related story.)
About 30 attended the meeting.
"We're all doing the same thing," said Jacqui Hauser, the Partnership's executive director and facilitator of the meeting.
"We should be able to get more done if we pull together."
Individually, the groups' activities range from joint advertising among members to downtown improvements and community events.
Those efforts could expand to broaden advertising and promoting all events, not just those of one group.
"We could pool money to advertise and try to promote the whole area," said Richard Ball of the Valley Association.
"We should cross-promote each others' events. . .spread the news."
Such an approach would be different than stand-alone promotions groups do now.
To that end, said Bruce Button, president of the Sharon Springs Chamber, "We need to do a better job being aware of what everyone else is doing."
The thrust would be not only to draw more interest locally, but also to pull in visitors and raise tourism income.
"It could be like Madison-Bouckville," Cindy Barber said of the Route 20 antique mecca. "We want to get people here and keep them here."
Several suggested working with Schoharie County's tourism department to tap into occupancy-tax funds and money set aside for promotion.
They suggested working with Alicia Terry, planning and tourism director, as part of an effort that would involve all groups.
"We should get involved with county tourism," said Ms. Hauser. We could do more. It would be like multiplication instead of addition."
More ideas surfaced at Thursday's meeting, including exchanging brochures, cross-membership and improved signage.
Mr. Button suggested creating a themed trail, similar to the successful wine trails in the Finger Lakes.
And Jessica Loden of the Valley Association endorsed using Facebook,Twitter and other social media.
"We could create a spider web of social media, Ms. Loden said. "And social media is free."
Building on that idea, Linda Quinn of the Middleburgh Area Business Association urged using scans for mobile browsers.
"When people come here, they're using their phones," she said.
Finally, Ms. Hauser pointed out that although some groups present focus on tourism, others center on community events and improvement. That doesn't mean the two are mutually exclusive.
"They have the same goals, and there's a lot of overlap between the two," she said.
Ms. Hauser said the next steps would be to meet with Ms. Terry and also form a smaller committee with one representative from each of the groups attending Thursday.