Friday, February 16, 2001

N. Kentuckian takes spot on tourism board

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON — Northern Kentucky's top tourism official has landed a seat on a new statewide board that will use tax incentives to lure major attractions to Kentucky.

        Tom Caradonio, president of the Northern Kentucky Convention and Visitors Bureau, is one of seven members appointed by Gov. Paul Patton to the new Tourism Development Finance Authority.

[photo] The Newport Aquarium received a sales tax abatement. The state hopes to lure more attractions the same way.
(Enquirer photo)
| ZOOM |
        Among the tax breaks the board will offer will be a sales tax abatement approved by the General Assembly in 1996 and used for the first time by developers of the Newport Aquarium, which opened in 1999.

        Since then, the tax break has also been used by developers of the Kentucky Speedway in Gallatin County, the Millennium Peace Bell Park in Newport and the Newport on the Levee entertainment district under construction along the Ohio Riv er.

        “It's a great program,” Mr. Caradonio said Thursday. “We would not have the aquarium or Newport on the Levee or other projects in Northern Kentucky or the rest of the state without it.”

        The panel, formed through an executive order from Mr. Patton, will work much like boards operating in the state's Economic Development Cabinet.

        The cabinet uses tax breaks and other incentives to attract jobs and development to Kentucky.

        The new tourism finance authority will offer a sales-tax refund of up to 25 percent of a project's cost for new or expanded tourism attractions and entertainment districts, such as Newport on the Levee.

    Direct spending by visitors in Northern Kentucky:
    1992 ....... $112 million
    1993 ....... $117 million
    1994 ....... $128 million
    1995 ....... $133 million
    1996 ....... $143 million
    1997 ....... $163 million
    1998 ....... $176 million
    1999 ....... $213 million

    Where the money was spent in 1999:
    Lodging ....... $107.5 million
    Restaurants ....... $47.7 million
    Shopping ....... $25.3 million
    Entertainment ....... $15.1 million
    Transportation ....... $11.7 million
    Other ....... $5.6 million
    Source: Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau

        Low-interest loans also will be available to developers of tourism projects.

        Mr. Patton said in a statement that creation of the board is “an important step in the state's effort to generate tourism growth, as it ... consolidate(s) all financial programs relating to tourism development into the Tourism Development Cabinet.”

        The board will meet regularly to review projects applying for the tax break, with the first meeting tentatively set for March. Mr. Caradonio speculated that among the projects that could be eligible for the incentives are:

        • A proposed outdoor theater in Maysville.

        • A lodge that the state is trying to attract to Kincaid Lake State Park near Falmouth in Pendleton County.

        • The Millennium Monument Tower that has been proposed in Newport.

        House Majority Caucus Chairman Jim Callahan, D-Wilder, is one of the original sponsors of the 1996 Tourism Development Act. He said with tourism now a $1 billion-a-year industry in Kentucky it makes sense to take an economic development approach to luring major attractions to Kentucky.

        “Tourism really has earned an identity of its own as an industry,” said Mr. Callahan, who recommended Mr. Caradonio for the appointment to the tourism board.

        “With Tom Caradonio we have somebody on the board who is very, very aware of our tourism needs and activities in Northern Kentucky, where tourism is becoming one of our major industries,” he said.

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