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More than $825,000 will be awarded to 18 projects intended to boost tourism in York County in the first round of grants funded through a recently increased hotel tax.

The grant committee — comprised of members including state Rep. Kate Klunk, R-Hanover; York County President Commissioner Susan Byrnes; and York County Economic Alliance President and CEO Kevin Schreiber — reviewed more than 60 applications requesting more than $10 million.

York Revolution President Eric Menzer, who served as chairman of the committee, said in a release from the York County Convention and Visitors Bureau that "it's very clear that there was huge pent-up demand for this program."

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Thanks to a recently increased hotel tax, the York County Tourism Grant Committee was able to give out more than $825,000 for 18 tourism-boosting projects. Wochit

County Commissioner Doug Hoke said multiple groups had been collaboratively pushing for legislative approval to raise the hotel tax since 2009, and that effort finally paid off last year.

Act 18, which was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in April 2016, allows 57 counties, including York, to increase their local hotel-occupancy tax from 3 percent to 5 percent. The commissioners voted to exercise that right last May, and the bureau estimated approximately $1.2 million in additional annual revenue.

The York Expo Center will receive 14 percent of the additional revenue — nearly $400,000 for the first fiscal year — while the remaining balance will go to the bureau, which put a portion of that money into the tourism grant program.

Klunk announced the program's first grantees during Wednesday morning's county commissioners meeting:

  • $32,000 to the Military Vehicle Preservation Association to bring the International Convention of the Military Vehicle Preservation Association to York County.
  • $2,500 to the Mason-Dixon Business Association for Discover Delta and the marketing of recreation, history, shops and restaurants.
  • $10,000 to the Red Lion High School Student Council to assist with hosting the 2017 PA Association of Student Councils State Conference.
  • $100,000 to the York County Rail Trail Authority to complete the northern extension of the rail trail.
  • $7,861 to YWCA York for a synchronized swimming meet.
  • $66,000 for the York Expo Center for a future action plan for the York Agricultural Society.
  • $55,350 to the York Expo Center to host the AAU Mid-Atlantic Wrestling Association's Eastern National Wrestling in 2019 and 2020.
  • $30,000 to the York Expo Center for Wi-Fi upgrades at the center.
  • $45,000 to We Build You Play Sports Group for an invitational volleyball competition.
  • $13,000 to Spring Grove to create the Smoke in the Grove BBQ competition.
  • $5,250 to Bailey Leasing for a motor coach that will go up and down the East Coast promoting York County tourism.
  • $40,000 to Steam into History for an additional coach to expand operations.
  • $40,000 to YMCA of York County for improvements to the Graham Aquatic Center for competitive swimming events.
  • $225,000 to York City for improvements to Memorial Park softball field.
  • $50,000 to Main Street Hanover for a downtown tourism development program.
  • $5,000 to the Hanover Area Historical Society to market the Carriage House Museum.
  • $50,000 to Susquehanna Heritage to expand hours and marketing at the Susquehanna Riverlands Zimmerman Center.
  • $50,000 to the York County History Center for tourism asset development at the new center.

Projects for the Rail Trail Authority, York Expo Center and York City are multi-year grants, and the committee also has reserved $100,000 for a collaborative county branding initiative between the York County Community Foundation and Downtown Inc.

Per Act 18, each grantee was required to provide at least 25 percent in matching funds. That means, for example, the Rail Trail Authority must provide at least $25,000 toward its northern extension project.

Anne Druck, president of the visitors bureau, said organizations receiving grants sign contracts to ensure they spend the money on the projects, and the bureau will work with the organizations to produce grant closeout reports to identify how the money was spent.

Druck added that she didn't foresee any issues, because the bureau works closely with all the organizations granted money.

Moving forward, the program will open up for a second round of smaller awards — up to $10,000 — beginning July 10, with approximately $60,000 available. The committee will announce grant recipients by October 12.

The next round of larger grants will be similar to this year, according to the bureau, with the application period opening in early 2018 and grants announced by June.

"Fortunately, with a predictable funding source, we will be able to have this kind of impact every year for the foreseeable future," Menzer said in the release.

Druck estimated that the program will be able to grant more than $700,000 each year through the program.

— Reach David Weissman at dweissman@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @DispatchDavid.

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