Browning

By RICHARD BROWNING

CHARLESTON -- With economic development and job creation in the forefront of his state priorities, a comprehensive study to analyze an action plan regarding the tourism industry in West Virginia has begun.

The economic impact from direct tourism spending in West Virginia totaled $4.38 billion in 2008. Travel spending directly supports 44,000 jobs and millions of travel-related dollars are generated annually in every West Virginia county (from $1.3 million in the year 2000 to $729.3 million last year).

Tourism generated 14 million overnight visitors and 40 million day-trip visitors in 2008. And, West Virginia's landscape, culture and history present tourism development opportunity in every county.

Our tourism industry is truly a sleeping giant and I am extremely pleased we are beginning to give it the consideration it needs.

During the 2010 Legislative Session, lawmakers adopted Senate Concurrent Resolution 31 (SCR 31) which called for the implementation of a comprehensive analysis and action plan to fully develop the tourism industry in West Virginia, including the future development of events, attractions, and facilities in the State of West Virginia.

So the impact of downhill and Nordic skiing and the possible development of new facilities could be included in this study, lawmakers merged additional language from House Concurrent Resolution 131 (HCR 131) into the overall study proposal.

A study of this scope has to include experts from a variety of activities, ranging from our vast selection of unmatched outdoor recreational opportunities to other leisure pursuits.

In devising the requirements of a Request For Proposal (RFP), we put together a work group that initially sat down to the table on July 7th of this year. After intensive discussion and debate, we submitted our final suggestions on September 20 at the Governor's Conference on Tourism. We are pleased to provide the RFP requirements to the Department of Commerce for its release to bidders.

An RFP is an early stage in a procurement process which issues an invitation for individuals through a bidding process to submit a proposal on a specific commodity or service. The West Virginia Department of Commerce will solicit (RFP) bids to secure information relative to enhancing the tourism industry.

The project overview as defined by the RFP indicates the Department of Commerce is "seeking a qualified economic development consultant to analyze all aspects of West Virginia's tourism industry and assemble a detailed strategic plan to sustain and grown this sector of the state's economy for the next 10 years."

Proposals will be reviewed by a selection committee led by the Cabinet Secretary for the Department of Commerce. Award will be based on the value of the proposal at the discretion of the selection committee. The selection committee may request oral presentation and the Department of Commerce reserves the right to reject all proposals.

The RFP solicitation will be funded by the Department of Commerce with use of its promotional funds. In addition, a team will be put together to ensure the RFP is vetted. The value of the document will serve as a consensus of what needs to be studied.

As I mentioned earlier, putting together requirements of the RFP and ensuring a comprehensive assurance of the ways and means to build our tourism industry was a huge undertaking. Senate Concurrent Resolution 31's Tourism Study Members are to be commended for their time and energies in working together to enhance the state's recreational and economical developments.

Members of the SCR 31 Tourism Study group include:

* Kelley Goes - Cabinet Secretary for the WV Department of Commerce

* Oshel Craigo - Chairman of the WV Tourism Commission

* Carol Fulks - West Virginia Hospitality and Tourism Association

* Betty Carver - Commissioner of the Division of Tourism

* Sharon Cruikshank - West Virginia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus

* Jeffrey Lusk - Hatfield- McCoy Regional Recreation Authority

* Frank Jorgensen - Bright Enterprises

* J.D. Morgan - Frostline Consulting

* Bill Rock - Snowshoe Mountain Resort

* House of Delegates, Steve Kominar, D- Mingo

* House of Delegates, John Doyle, D- Jefferson

* Juliet Terry - Vision Shared

Browning, D-Wyoming, is a West Virginia state Senator and is the Senate Chairman of the Joint Commission on Economic Development.

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