LOCKPORT – The owner of Lockport’s top tourist attraction went to bat for the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. tonight.
Mike Murphy, of Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises, appeared before the Common Council to oppose Mayor Michael W. Tucker’s plan to end city payments to the county’s official tourism promotion agency.
While he was at it, Murphy also criticized Tucker’s plan to move the Labatt Canal Concert Series to the city parking lot at Chestnut and Elm streets. That’s perhaps 500 feet from Murphy’s business.
Tucker said last week he intends to stop the city’s payment of about $90,000 a year in proceeds from the “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills to the NTCC.
His plan, embodied in the proposed 2013 city budget, is to hire a city marketing director and spend the rest of the money on promotion.
Murphy, a member of the NTCC board of directors, said his business alone spent more than $54,000 this year on advertising. That’s more than the budget the city would have after paying the salary and benefits of the marketing director.
“That doesn’t touch what the NTCC does,” Murphy told the aldermen. “I think it would be foolish for the city to get out of it.”
Tucker said ending the tax subsidy wouldn’t hurt Lockport promotion, because the NTCC remains the county tourism agency, with a mandate to promote the whole county.
“This is their job, to promote Niagara County whether we pay them or not,” Tucker said. “They can’t arbitrarily say, ‘We’re not working with you.’”
He argued that Lockport specifically derives little direct benefit from the NTCC.
“Everything is focused on the Falls and the state park,” the mayor said. “They promote the hell out of Lewiston, and they should, but we shouldn’t have to pay for it.”
He noted that Lewiston and other communities whose attractions are featured in NTCC publications don’t have to pay the NTCC anything. Its revenue comes from the bed taxes charged by Niagara Falls, Lockport and the county.
“I feel strongly as a businessman in the City of Lockport, not as a board member of the NTCC, we should support this organization,” Murphy said. “I know what it takes to bring people to Lockport and how to do it.”
Tucker retorted, “I know the NTCC works for you. It doesn’t work for anybody else.”
On the concerts, Murphy said the noise, traffic, blocked access streets and parking shortages would hurt his business on the nine summer Fridays when the rock shows are on stage.
He said his banquet facility hosts numerous Friday parties and weddings that would be disrupted by the racket “when somebody says ‘I do.’”
“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Tucker replied. “It’s not the end of the world.”
Murphy said blocking Market Street, leading to the concert venue and his business, would be a big negative. Tucker answered, “Everybody’s got OnStar these days. They can find their way around.”