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LOCKPORT – Niagara County and the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp. have agreed in principle on a new three-year contract for the NTCC to continue as the county’s official tourism promotion agency.

NTCC President John Percy said details remain to be negotiated, but the agreement staved off the June 18 expiration of the contract, which the county extended by only one year last year because of a dispute over the corporation’s performance.

As part of the deal, the NTCC agreed to pay for a consultant to prepare a report to analyze areas of possible improvement in what Niagara County offers to visitors.

“It’s sort of like a gap analysis to see what products are missing in the overall mix,” Percy said. He said it is a different assignment than that faced by a consultant hired by the City of Niagara Falls to evaluate the NTCC’s performance.

Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield, had introduced a resolution for Tuesday’s County Legislature meeting to extend the NTCC contract to Dec. 31 while hiring a consultant to evaluate the agency work. However, Ross said that will be removed from the agenda in favor of a vote on the three-year agreement, which came together quickly Friday, according to Percy.

Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport, gave some credit for the deal to Henry M. Sloma, whom the county appointed to the NTCC board of directors in January. Sloma, also chairman of the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency, “obviously had some input,” Updegrove said.

He said the three-year deal would “provide some continuity,” but added, “There’s going to be a review of the county’s tourism performance and product. We want to identify how to keep people here longer.”

Ross said the county has long had complaints from some outside Niagara Falls about a perceived lack of promotional support from the NTCC.

“I’d like to answer our own people, our venues who think not enough is being done,” Ross said in support of the consultant’s study.

The NTCC board will vote on the deal Friday. The agency also needs to extend contracts with the cities of Niagara Falls and Lockport, which also run out next month, but Percy said, “The county contract is paramount.”

That’s because state law says only the not-for-profit agency that has an agreement with Niagara County is entitled to funding from the “bed tax” on hotel and motel bills. The NTCC will continue to receive 80 percent of Niagara Falls’ bed tax receipts, 75 percent of Lockport’s and 95 percent of the county’s, which applies only outside the city limits of Lockport and Niagara Falls.

Percy said the Niagara Falls bed tax receipts account for at least 95 percent of the NTCC’s operating budget.

The NTCC also has released its 2013 annual report, along with a new five-year strategic plan and a new marketing plan.

The report said the total of all bed tax revenue in the county last year was $2.24 million, up 55 percent from 2008. The NTCC will receive all but $440,000 of that revenue.

The NTCC’s new slogan is “Up Close and Powerful,” an effort to counteract the truism that the Canadian side has the best views of the Falls by pointing out the advantage the U.S. side has in giving visitors a closer view of the cataracts.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com