Leaders Praise Governor’s Restoration of $15 million Tourism, Arts Funding
Steve’s breakdown: Malloy’s budget, which takes effect in July, includes $15 million for tourism marketing and $1.5 million for arts and culture grants. I’d make the calls now while their all pumped up with the plan.
MIDDLETOWN: CT: State and local leaders met Thursday in Middletown to laud Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s restoration of cultural, arts and tourism funding and stress its importance to the city’s arts and business community.
State Rep. Matt Lesser (D-Durham, Middlefield and Middletown), Middlesex Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh and Speaker of the House Christopher Donovan (D-Meriden) joined Matt Pugliese, managing director of Oddfellows Playhouse, and Deborah Moore, executive director of the Wadsworth Mansion and board member of the Central Connecticut Regional Tourism District, to explain this investment will encourage economic growth in Middlesex County.
“For every dollar the state gives out through the Commission on Culture & Tourism, we see $9.30 in returns to the state and local economy,” Lesser said at the meeting at Oddfellows Playhouse.
Donovan stressed the importance of culture and tourism to Connecticut. “It’s an industry that brings in about $14 billion in our state every year, so it’s a big economic boost for our state and we saw in previous administrations that cuts in culture and tourism actually hurt.”
Malloy’s budget, Lesser says, includes $1.5 million earmarked for tourism marketing, $1.5 million for arts and culture grants and $1.66 million for regional tourism districts.
“We heard earlier this year about how Connecticut literally fell off the map for our tourism marketing; the districts were cut in the original budget, so the budget proposal we have before us” restores that, Lesser said.
Pugliese explained that the youth playhouse’s ongoing programs encourage parents to drop off their children and spend time — and money — in the city.
“Oddfellows serves nearly 2,000 children each year and 45 percent of the students come from outside Middletown. We serve 27 different school districts throughout the state. Our programs don’t mean that families comes to Middletown once; they come week after week after week; these are families that are coming to see all the different types of benefits that Middletown has — our parks our Main Street, our businesses, our restaurants — while they drop their child off for and hour, an hour and a half, they go shopping … and dining.”
McHugh explained how he has worked to maintain cultural and tourism funding over the years and was part of the original task force in 1992 under Gov. Weicker.
“I made the statement back then that tourism was in the back seat of the economic engine in the state of Connecticut and we had to get it the front seat because of the amount of jobs and taxes it had been creating for the state. Well, we did move that forward, but over the last few years … we see advertisements all the time: visit New Jersey, visit Maryland, visit South Carolina, but where is Connecticut? All of that funding was cut.”
Robert Resnikoff, vice chair of the city’s Arts Commission, spoke to the inherent benefit of the arts.
“In addition to those economic benefits and the jobs and the tourism, what the arts really are about are helping make us aware of ourselves and our neighbors and enriching our lives. For example, when parents and their families come to see performances here, one of the things it does is helps turn Middletown from a town into a community … we need to remember what the arts are really for.”