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County Funding Crisis Affects Local Tourism Industry

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – County budget cuts will take a toll on local tourism efforts and at the Buffalo Convention Center.

"This is going to have a very negative impact on the 15,000 people that are employed in the hospitality industry in Erie County," said Buffalo Niagara Convention and Visitors Bureau President Richard Geiger.

He says so far he has lost 40 percent of his budget due to the county crisis. The CVB was to receive more than $2.7 million this year from Erie County. But the county has already chopped more than $1.7 million of that. Geiger says as the region works to become a tourism destination, the budget mess will have a negative impact on the local economy.

"The CVB is a revenue producer for Erie County. We bring in tourists, visitors and amateur sports into this market, and these people spend money," Geiger said. "I submit that the county projections for sales tax are now overstated. If we can't do our job and bring visitors in, they won't be here spending money."

Geiger says he's not sure if the CVB would be forced to close, but he says more cuts would leave him in a difficult situation. The budget crisis could also mean deep cuts to the Buffalo Convention Center. Facility director Paul Murphy says it will be impossible to operate the rest of this year if the county slashes more convention center funding.

"It is not just 2005. We have about 150 contracts for groups between this year and as far out as 2010," Murphy said. "If we don't get the county funding, we won't be able to operate. We won't be able to accommodate them."

Hotel, restaurant and event organizers say the cuts against a revenue producing industry are "irresponsible."