Tupper Lake looks for grants to back volunteers

TUPPER LAKE – State Assemblywoman Janet Duprey visited Big Tupper Ski Center on Saturday to talk about progress in Tupper Lake.

During an informal meeting in the ski center’s lodge, Duprey spoke with ARISE Chairman Jim LaValley, town Supervisor Patti Littlefield, and chamber of commerce President Adam Boudreau, among others. Duprey applauded Tupper Lake’s army of volunteers, but said the town needs to start competing for grants.

“I know how hard the people of Tupper Lake have been working as volunteers,” the Republican from Peru said. “It’s time to get the money to back up the effort.”

Duprey singled out North Country Regional Economic Development Council grants, which have been awarded throughout the region to help fund projects including The Wild Center’s Wild Walk attraction and two hotel projects in Saranac Lake.

During his State of the State address last month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that there will be a fourth round of Regional Economic Development grants. The town of Tupper Lake has yet to apply for one, Duprey said.

“You have to put them in to get them,” Duprey said. “Patti (Littlefield) and I just had a discussion, and we’re going to start connecting with the economic development folks and get their input on what’s been successful.”

Duprey said a good model is to apply for grant money to improve already existing resources. She said the next step is to get the town and the chamber of commerce boards together to prioritize projects. She suggested Big Tupper and the golf course as possible choices.

“Certainly with Big Tupper, if they had snowmaking facilities here, what a difference it would’ve made this week,” Duprey said. “The golf course is another example. Get the other nine holes done. We already know about the great things that are happening at the Wild Center. Let’s get everybody talking together.”

Duprey also said that Cuomo is aware of projects happening in Tupper Lake. She said she’d love to see him visit.

“I have had discussions with the governor’s office about how we’d love to get him to come to Tupper Lake,” Duprey said. “I expect that we will have him here at some point.”

Littlefield said obtaining grant money is one of her top priorities as town supervisor.

“The town is in the very early stages of discussing how to get some of this money that all of the towns around us have been getting,” Littlefield said. “My question is, can we apply for that funding to benefit town-owned property like the golf course? Are we eligible to apply for it? I’d love to see something happen with the golf course to make it a year-round facility. Our board is definitely intent on having the application go out this year.”

Boudreau said the meeting was one in a long line of discussions about the ever-evolving role of the chamber of commerce.

“We want to focus on being a strong chamber and provide services to them that are meaningful,” Boudreau said. “One of those things is hospitality training. If we have people on the front lines when we have tourists come through, we want to help them be able to speak intelligently about the area and answer questions. The more we can narrow our focus as a chamber, I think the better job we can do. We want to encourage member-to-member services as well, like networking events. We want people to talk and we want to get input.”

As plans move forward, Bodreau and LaValley said the chamber will begin to assume some of the projects ARISE has taken on. LaValley said that doesn’t mean ARISE is going away anytime soon, but he noted that having fewer groups do more should benefit Tupper Lake. Boudreau agreed.

“I’ve noticed over the years that we all have good intentions, but if you struggle independently in all these different areas without a concerted plan, you can struggle all you want but you’re not going to go anywhere,” Boudreau said. “Now, as the chamber has narrowed its focus and paid attention to what we should be, people have kind of rallied behind us, and it feels good.”

The chamber of commerce is hosting a free, open-to-the-public Winter Social from 6:30 to 9 p.m. this Friday at The Wild Center. The event will include a brief presentation by Garry Douglas, president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce, at 7 p.m. Douglas will overview the position and importance of a chamber of commerce as well as how Tupper Lake ties into the North Country Chamber of Commerce.

Following Douglas, Boudreau will outline the chamber’s 2014 events and initiatives. He will also provide insight to the destination marketing and planning discussions that have been highlighted at town and village board meetings during the past few weeks.

Contact Shaun Kittle at 891-2600 ext. 25 or skittle@adirondackdailyenterprise.com.