Chamber dinner highlights Tubman Park, tourism
— The Dorchester Chamber of Commerce celebrated its 71st Annual Membership Dinner Meeting with a strong showing of the county’s business community, led by Chamber Director Bill Christopher.
The event was hosted at the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort on Thursday, Jan. 26. Two guest speakers from the Maryland Division of Tourism, Film, and the Arts — Managing Director Liz Fitzsimmons and Outreach and Partner- ship Coordinator Heather Ersts — presented information about the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park opening in Church Creek on Saturday, March 11.
The Division of Tourism, Film, and the Arts has created a Business Toolkit, a collection of information about the park and the 125 mile scenic byway, promotional materials, and other resources to help businesses maximize the positive economic impact the new park can bring to the area.
“This (park) has been the work of nearly a generation of folks passionate and wanting to honor this great American icon and tell her story,” said Fitzsimmons.
Overall, Mar yland is doing quite well in the tourism sector, Fitzsimmons said, noting that the state has outpaced the nation and the region in overall growth of visitors in leisure and business travel segments.
Tourism is the 10th largest private sector employer in Maryland, supporting 144,000 employees who earned $5.7 billion in wages in 2015, according to Fitzsimmons’ presentation.
Visitors to Maryland in 2015, she said, spent $16.8 billion on travel, and their spending generates $2.2 billion in state and local tax revenue. For perspective, she added that each household in the state would have to pay an additional $1,040 in taxes to replace the tax revenue generated by visitors.
“What do we do to try to increase the number of visitors coming to the state of Maryland? One of the things we’re really working hard on is generating partnerships with the private sector to drive more revenue and provide more economic opportunities for our partners,” Fitzsimmons said.
With the draw of a new state park, those numbers should only improve even further in the coming years. The Certified Host Byway Business and Business Toolkit programs seek to help businesses capitalize on the increase in visitors expected for the new attraction.
“This is going to help your area and we are here to help you help your businesses expand on these economic opportunities that will be standing on your doorsteps,” said Ersts. “As all these new folks are coming to town, domestically and internationally, they are going to need amenities. They’re going to need lodging, food, souvenirs, gasoline, supplies, and other activities. They’re going to want to expand their adventure and see other places.”
To become a Certified Host Byway Business, employers are asked to agree to training for themselves, current employees, and future new employees, display a decal or poster declaring the establishment’s’ status as a Certified Host Business, and promotion of the park through displaying marketing materials, maps, driving guides, and making sure staff is informed about the history and significance of Harriet Tubman.
“The benefits of being part of this program is that you get the full power of the Maryland Office of Tourism with our marketing arm, so increased marketing of your business through our product,” Ersts said.
In addition to the special guest speakers, Chamber Board President Jeff Hubbard introduced three new board members — Jermaine Anderson of Liv Again and the Art Bar, Scott Dorsey of RAMS, and Eddie James of Koski Enterprises, Inc.
The three new members join the rest of the sitting Board of Directors, Hubbard, Gerry Boyle of Benson and Mangold and Ironman MD, Dave Cannon of the Dorchester Banner and Cambridge City Council, Philicia Drayon of 5 9 Tags and Title Agency, Kevin Hill of Hill-Kimmel Contracting, Lucie Hughes Chesapeake College, Denny Jones of Atlantic Tractor, Adam Shellhamer of BDK IT Solutions, Sharon Spedden of Sharon Real Estate, and Randy Thompson of the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Resort.
Sponsors of the event included Cambridge Marketplace, Layton’s Chance Winery, Cambridge Family Eye Care and Mid-Shore Score.
Maryland Division of Tourism, Film, and the Arts Managing Director Liz Fitzsimmons highlights the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park at the Dorchester Chamber of Commerce annual dinner Thursday, Jan. 26.