Tupper Lake chamber to move to town hall

TUPPER LAKE – The chamber of commerce here plans to relocate the town office building next year.

The town board unanimously passed a resolution Monday to welcome the chamber into the town office building on Jan. 1. The chamber will pay $2,000 annually to use a portion of the building’s lower level.

Dan McClelland, president of the chamber’s Board of Directors and owner/editor of the Tupper Lake Free Press, approached the town board to request the move.

“Businesses in Tupper Lake have disappeared, and our chamber membership is smaller than it’s ever been,” McClelland said.

The relocation is expected to save the chamber about $20,000 annually by lowering the organization’s rent and sharing utility costs with the town. McClelland said winter heating bills can cost the chamber $1,000 a month, and added that there are other benefits besides financial ones.

“There’s lots of parking during the day, and it’s handicap accessible,” McClelland said. “We don’t need a lot of space, so the foyer here could be used for brochures. If we can save $15,000 or $20,000, we could earmark that money for promotion or tourism and brochure design and advertising, which I’d like to see more of.”

McClelland said having town Recreation Director Mike Fritts under the same roof as the chamber will also help with collaborative efforts like events planning.

Councilman John Quinn questioned whether the move would be a step toward the town assuming the chamber’s role.

“I think the town needs to really step forward and become involved in marketing and tourism if that’s going to be our industry here,” McClelland said. “A lot of communities have tourism departments. The town of Long Lake in particular – their budget is $450,000. They do a remarkable job with that money.”

McClelland added that he thought the town and village had really “stepped up” by partially funding chamber Events Coordinator Michelle Clement’s position.

“We’re not looking to hit the town in a big way; we’re just thinking of any help we can get to help us do our job,” McClelland said. “I’m not entirely sure how the chamber got involved in tourist promotion. It’s really a members organization to better the members, but somehow here it’s become a promotional entity, and never with the money to do it properly.”

The Enterprise spoke to Clement Wednesday. She said the chamber is doing OK financially, but the money saved will allow it to move forward with other initiatives.

“Being able to share services with the town for the time being will allow us to develop more advanced marketing programs for Tupper Lake, and focus on some destination planning,” Clement said. “I think if we use appropriate signage and direct our tourists down to that location, we can be successful there.”

Clement added that some ongoing projects, like making the chamber’s website mobile-phone friendly, will now move forward more quickly. She also said she hopes the relocation will be a step toward someday establishing a full-blown visitor center elsewhere in Tupper Lake.