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Thousands generated from lodging tax, distributed to Somerset businesses

By: Maria Miller

SOMERSET, Pa. -- Somerset County got its annual economic boost Wednesday as close to $320,000 in grants was distributed back to county businesses. It's all thanks to its special tourism grant program.
Since its inception 11 years ago, the Somerset County Tourism Grant Program has generated close to $7 million with more than $3 million of it going back to the local economy in hopes of bringing in even more money.
"The money is actually generated through the hotel tax which is the visitors coming into the area, paying the hotel tax," said Eric Mauck, CEO of Seven Springs and a member of the grant review committee. "The tax is collected and then gets redistributed out."
The $320,000 generated is only 40 percent of the overall money raised through the tax program. The other 60 percent is split between the county commissioners for special programs and the Laurel Highlands Visitor Bureau to market the entire region.
On Wednesday, 58 different businesses and organizations received checks ranging from hundreds to several thousand dollars. It's money that will be earmarked for improvements, expansion and marketing.
"It really does inject that spark that a lot of small businesses and nonprofit organizations need for their special events or to drive business through their doors," said Somerset County Commissioner Pamela Tokar-Ickes.  
Seven Springs Mountain Resort was a big recipient Wednesday, getting $35,000 for marketing initiatives. It's also the largest lodger in the county, bringing a good chunk of the taxes in.  
Several nonprofit organizations also walked away with a boost, like the $10,000 given to the Friends and Families of Flight 93 to help bring more visitors and keep the memories of the 40 heroes alive.
"It's a full circle," said Linda Meyer, a board member of the Friends and Families of Flight 93. "The money comes in and we in turn hopefully bring the tourists in to continue to fund the county and to visit the county and all the different entities Somerset County provides."
But the money isn't just handed out. It's a difficult process that county leaders said is becoming more and more competitive every year.
"They have to submit a grant, basically with a business plan or a marketing plan that shows how they're going to use the money to help grow and help benefit their business," Mauck said.
"We've had more than $200,000 over last years' requests," Tokar-Ickes said. "Unfortunately you can't award the grants to everyone. It's a tough decision but we're really happy to inject this money back into the local economy."
Complete list of the 2014 Somerset County Tourism Grant Program recipients:
1. Allegheny Trail Alliance (ATA) - Marketing ($18,000)
2. Benscreek Canoe Club - Marketing ($7,000)
3. Buffer Creek Sporting Clays, Inc. - Capital ($4,000)
4. Casselman River Watershed Association Inc. - Marketing ($2,000)
5. Comfort Inn Somerset - Marketing ($5,000)
6. Confluence Cyclery - Marketing ($1,500)
7. Confluence Hose B&B and Catering Services, LLC - Marketing ($2,000)
8. Confluence Tourism Association - Visitors Center ($5,000)
9. Confluence Tourism Association - Marketing ($2,500)
10. Coon Hollow Cabin - Marketing ($560)
11. EaglesNest Vacation Rental - Marketing ($500)
12. Faranda Farm - Marketing ($4,000)
13. Flight 93 Memorial Chapel - Marketing ($3,000)
14. Friends of Flight 93 National Memorial - Marketing ($15,000)
15. Georgian Inn of Somerset - Marketing ($9,000)
16. Gingerbread House Bed and Breakfast - Marketing ($1,500)
17. Haunted Hayloft - Marketing ($6,000)
18. Highland Farms Guest House - Marketing ($2,000)
19. Horizon View Farms - Marketing ($2,000)
20. Hostel on Main - Marketing ($9,000)
21. Husky Haven Campground - Marketing ($650)
22. Huston's Haunted Hollow - Marketing ($3,600)
23. Jager and Friends Dog Park - Wings of Change - Marketing ($700)
24. Laurel Arts - Marketing ($2,500)
25. Laurel Highlands Heritage Festivals Co-op - Marketing ($5,000)
26. Laurel Highlands Snowmobile Club, Inc. - Marketing ($2,000)
27. Meyersdale Area Historical Society - Visitors Center ($14,568)
28. Meyersdale Area Historical Society - Marketing ($3,500)
29. Meyersdale Area Merchants Association - Capital ($4,000)
30. Morguen Toole Company - Marketing ($5,000)
31. Mountain Playhouse - Marketing ($12,000)
32. National Road Chainsaw Carving Festival - Marketing ($1,500)
33. Oakhurst Tea Room, Inc. - Marketing ($2,500)
34. Pennsylvania Cross Country Skiers Association - Capital ($1,839)
35. Pioneer Park Playground - Capital ($1,000)
36. Posey Corners Campground - Marketing ($2,000)
37. Ripples On The Water - Capital ($2,000)
38. Ripples On The Water - Marketing ($2,000)
39. Rockwood Area Merchants Association - Visitors Center ($10,400)
40. Rockwood Area Merchants Association - Capital ($750)
41. Rockwood Area Merchants Association - Marketing ($3,000)
42. Seven Springs Mountain Resort - Marketing ($35,000)
43. Sisters Cafe - Marketing ($1,500)
44. Sisters Cafe - Capital ($825)
45. Somerset County Chamber of Commerce - Marketing ($14,000)
46. Somerset County Farmers Market - Marketing ($2,500)
47. Somerset County Maple Producers Association - Marketing ($1,000)
48. Somerset County Rails to Trails Association - Capital ($10,000)
49. Somerset County Sportsmen League - Capital ($1,500)
50. Somerset Historical Center - Marketing ($10,000)
51. Somerset Interchange Lodging Association - Marketing ($28,000)
52. Somerset, Inc. - Marketing ($7,500)
53. Springs Historical Society - Marketing ($2,500)
54. Stonycreek Shooting Center, Inc. - Capital ($5,000)
55. Stonycreek/Quemahoning Initiative (SQI) - Capital ($8,000)
56. The Parker House - Marketing ($4,000)
57. Trail Town Program - Capital ($7,000)
58. Welcome to Shanksville - Capital ($1,000)

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Edgar Snyder

Washington Times