Chamber unveils new logo

The Garrett County Republican

McHENRY — The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce announced Tuesday an update to its visual identity to better reflect the organization’s mission statement and help combat misperceptions.

The new Chamber logo is an evolution of the organization’s previous logo (itself an update of an earlier design). Although the graphic and colors remain the same and the typeface is similar, the text emphasizes the words “Garrett County Chamber of Commerce” rather than “Deep Creek Lake Area.”

Understanding the importance of Maryland’s largest inland body of water, the new logo still proudly proclaims “Home of Deep Creek Lake.”

“The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to present our newly worded logo,” said Andrew Fike, chairman of the Chamber’s board of directors.“We, as a board, feel this new logo better represents all Garrett County businesses.

“It’s a small, but meaningful, change,” said Nick Sharps, membership development manager for the Chamber. “We are excited to move forward under this new logo and recommit ourselves to organizing, supporting and representing Garrett County’s business community.”

Kendall Ludwig, president & principal designer of local web and graphic design firm CurlyRed Inc., completed the work on the project.

Garrett County Chamber of Commerce Receives ConventionSouth’s Annual Readers’ Choice Award

The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce was honored by the announcement that they have received a Readers’ Choice award from the publication and editors of ConventionSouth Magazine out of Gulf Shores, Alabama. ConventionSouth is a national multimedia resource for planning events in the South. The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce was selected as one of 800 nominees and one of the only 175 winners in the South.

“Over the past two years, the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce has been working on an initiative to increase group business, including meeting travel, in the Deep Creek Lake area and Garrett County, Maryland,” said Jen Durben, Group Sales & Marketing Manager. “This award is the culmination of the hard work and dedication of our area members that have provided outstanding meeting and convention services in our region. We only hope to continue to grow and thrive in this market.”

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Local chamber of commerce launches new website

For the Cumberland Times-News

— MCHENRY, Md. — The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce recently launched a new version of its website,, incorporating the new County brand, “Deep Creek Experience.”

The redesigned site offers chamber members and visitors new technological functionality that makes using the site, accessing member information and planning a Garrett County getaway easier.

“We are excited to announce the launch of the new utilizing our new brand,” said Nicole Christian, chamber president and CEO, via news release. “It is fresh, easy to navigate, and technologically superior by featuring a design that automatically adjusts its format to the device that’s being used whether it’s a desktop, smartphone or tablet. is the starting point for anyone planning their Deep Creek Experience and is loaded with resources for Chamber member businesses and local residents.”

The new site includes a redesigned layout & navigation, more graphics, a four-season photo gallery, featured specials and easy-to-use functionality.

Along with serving as a guide to current and potential tourists to the Deep Creek Lake area and Garrett County, the website also includes information specifically for current and prospective Chamber members, including membership information and events, advertising and a log-in area for members to update their business information, add events and specials.

Visitors to the site can easily search for any chamber member using the business directory search located on the top left of the home page and every page on the site. And the new is also a responsive website so it automatically adjusts to whatever platform a visitor is using to access it – mobile, tablet or desktop.

Along with information on the history of Deep Creek Lake and Garrett County, the new site showcases Garrett County’s small towns by highlighting each town in Northern and Southern Garrett County. Plus, the site also includes a link to the new Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area website,

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Garrett County tourism revenue up 4 percent from last year

Chamber website visits also jump from 2012

For the Cumberland Times-NewsCumberland Times-News

MCHENRY — Garrett County had the highest accommodations sales collections ever recorded during fiscal 2013, which ended June 30, according to the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce. Revenue was up 4 percent compared to the previous year.

The July and August figures for this fiscal year have increased 3 percent over last year. The 2013 Heads on Beds tallies are up 15 percent over 2012. Through September 2013, the Comptroller’s Office of Maryland reports a 10.9 percent increase in Garrett County sales tax collections.

Visits to the chamber of commerce website,, have increased 30 percent over 2012.

According to the Maryland Office of Tourism, Garrett County saw a 6.3 percent increase in fiscal 2013 tourism sales tax revenues, the highest increase in the state by a county not operating a casino. Overall, Maryland saw a less than 1 percent increase in tourism sales tax revenues.

“Due to our aggressive marketing strategies, we have seen record accommodations sales in fiscal years 2010 to 2013,” said Nicole Christian, president/CEO of the chamber. “We’ve taken advantage of some new advertising opportunities and really concentrated our marketing and advertising efforts in our target markets. We are pleased our new ad buys have really paid off.”

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Autumn Glory Fall Foliage Tours Begin in Garrett County

MCHENRY, Md. – The Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area, a program of the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce is announcing the 2013 Autumn Glory Fall Foliage Tours.

Officials say the tours include some of Garrett County’s most scenic routes. This year the chamber is offering two fall foliage tours.

Officials say the Fall Foliage Heritage Tour highlights include the Mountain Lake Park, Broadford Lake Park, Kitzmiller, Shallmar and Loch Lynn Heights, Mt. Nebo WMA. The extended tour includes New Germany State Park, Monroe Scenic Overlook, Deep Creek Lake State Park and Discovery Center and Finzel Swamp Nature Preserve.

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Chamber Leadership Won't Reveal Source Of "White Paper" Figures

Jul. 19, 2012

by Paul Roberts and Mike Herdering

Garrett County Chamber of Commerce directors refuse to disclose their sources for claims that shale gas revenue in western Maryland could amount to $47 billion, and, despite the chamber’s large county subsidy, the presiding county commissioners apparently see no problem with the chamber making such claims.

Official median government estimates put the value of the gas reserve almost 90 percent lower than the chamber’s figure, at around $5 billion.

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The chamber’s “white paper” on shale gas – published on a web site jointly run by the county and the University of Maryland Extension Service – contains mostly industry talking points and has drawn criticism for promoting gas-drilling while wildly exaggerating claims of its financial possibilities. The issue, which spawned several letters to the editor of The Republican, has been a hot topic locally and led to testy exchanges at a chamber-organized function this week in McHenry.

Those connected with the process say a lagging vacation tourism industry, for many years the Deep Creek Lake area’s economic engine, has local business elites and county officials looking for a replacement; some believe drilling for gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale deposits under the county is the best hope for the future, given tourism’s slide in a national economic slow-down now in its fourth year. Many others, at numerous public meetings over the last two years, have complained that tourism and industrial gas development are not compatible.

Meanwhile, a local businessman who says he helped with the chamber report – and with one by the Greater Cumberland Committee that contains identical financial claims – denies that he was the source for the exaggerated estimate, but says he doesn’t know where the information originated.

Jonathan “Smiley” Kessler, operator of several tourism-related businesses in Garrett County, said he expects horizontally “fractured” wells to be drilled soon on land he owns in Pennsylvania. He estimated what he called “pie in the sky” earnings from the drilling, but insists it “is summarily wrong” to conclude that information formed the basis for the chamber’s undocumented numbers.

Kessler redirected inquiries about documentation to chamber CEO Nicole Christian, who refused to discuss the matter, but said, “We believe our facts to be accurate,” despite the government revenue projection that is $42 billion lower – a gap about equal to oil-rich Alaska’s annual economic output.

Kessler distributed material about gas-drilling in mid-2011 to local policy-makers, including the Garrett County Board of Realtors, with a chart titled “Created for Board of Garrett County Commissioners.” That piece puts the true “total play revenue” not in the billions, but at “$31.4 trillion” – about twice the gross domestic product of the United States.

The only chamber representative willing to offer any explanations was Tony Doerr, a local businessman who was board chair when the white paper was released.

“Maybe we didn’t do our due diligence,” Doerr said. “I can see where it appears that way. Did we learn our lesson? ‘Cite your source.'”

Doerr said that the chamber board, with help from its legislative affairs committee, voted 14-0 to release the white paper. It calls for expediting the ongoing review of state regulations while ensuring “safe development.”

Doerr said he thought the paper, which also contradicts government estimates to claim the county could become a “leading gas supplier” to the Northeast, took a “soft enough stance that it wouldn’t cause anybody any grief.”

“But none of us on the board are educated enough [about shale gas] to say we are experts,” Doerr added.

Doerr, Kessler, and others say that many in the community are concerned about the tourism sector, creeping unemployment, and a dramatic fall in real estate sales.

“Deep Creek Lake is still the core of our community’s business,” summarized Doerr, who owns a construction company. “But we’re just not getting the growth out of it that is needed.”

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Chamber Receives $30,000 Grant For Heritage Area Proj.

Jun. 28, 2012

U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski (both D-Md.) on Tuesday announced the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) approval of a $30,000 grant to the Garrett Country Chamber of Commerce to develop the Strategic Initiative Program to increase tourism and create new jobs in heritage tourism.

Garrett County recently was authorized as a state Certified Heritage Area titled the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West Heritage Area. The Strategic Initiative Program will identify ways to promote Garrett County’s unique identity. This grant is the next major step in enhancing tourism, creating jobs, and promoting sustainability, according to the senators.

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The program will include establishment of a Heritage Area web site and use of other social media tools, purchasing and installing four kiosks, hiring a consultant to research and compile the history of Garrett County, including interpretive signage, and the creation of multimedia materials.

“This is exactly the kind of grant I like to see,” Cardin said. “It creates jobs, and it will make it possible for more people to come to Garrett County and enjoy all the history, nature and culture that this county and the state have to offer. We are faced with a unique opportunity here both to bolster existing tourist attractions and to showcase this beautiful part of our state.”

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Buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland? Call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! I take great pride in referrals, and I assure you, I will take great care of your friends, family & colleagues!

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Garrett County Chamber of Commerce supports shale gas development

Elaine Blaisdell Cumberland Times-News

OAKLAND — The Garrett County Chamber of Commerce has adopted a position in support of Marcellus shale gas development and encourages the Maryland Department of the Environment to authorize the process of allowing for the safe extraction in the county, according to a white paper released last month.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s Marcellus Shale Safe Drilling Initiative Advisory Commission’s final report is set to be released in August 2014.

The white paper explains the chamber’s position and was distributed as a way to educate its members, according to Nicole Christian, president and CEO of the chamber, who is also a member of the Garrett County Marcellus Shale Natural Gas Advisory Committee.

“We recognize the impact that our nation’s energy dependency has had in shaping our domestic and foreign policy,” states the paper. “Although currently no national energy policy exists, we feel that it is likely that we will see a shift in favor of greater reliance on domestic energy sources, including natural gas. Our county is uniquely positioned to provide to our state and country the prospect of a substantial and viable energy source to meet our domestic needs now and in the future.”

The paper was drafted with the assistance of members of the chamber’s Legislative Affairs Committee and board of directors, according to Christian. It was distributed to Sen. George Edwards, Delegate Wendell Beitzel and The Greater Cumberland Committee.

The chamber represents more than 630 member firms, according to the paper. However, at least one of the firms that the chamber represents does not support the intent of the paper.

“I would like to go on record stating that we do not support this letter either in spirit, intent or content,” writes C.M. Herdering of Husky Power Dogsledding at Mountain MD Kennels, LLC. “Nor did we receive any request for input. Nor do we support ‘the expedited study of shale gas development,’ which the white paper proposes.”

The Legislative Affairs Committee is open to all members and every member had the opportunity to provide input, said Christian in an email to the Times-News.

“Is it too much to hope that the chamber withdraw this letter until after actually taking a poll of its members’ position on the subject?” writes Herdering. “I have no doubt … they can issue a more comprehensive and unbiased plan — a plan which balances growth, environmental safety and everyone’s quality of life.”

In other states where drilling has already occurred, communities have welcomed large increase in employment, which in turn spurs business growth and expansion; increase in tax revenues; and other tertiary activity, according to the paper. Landowners have also benefited in the form of leasing and royalty payments from gas drilling.

The Garrett County Farm Bureau has also voiced support for responsible, safe development of natural gas from shale and recognizes it as a potential revenue source, according to the paper.

“In a county where our largest source of revenue is from the recreation industry — those drawn by the beauty and contentment of our land — it astounds us that the chamber would support the massive industrialization that natural gas development would require,” writes Herdering. “There may be jobs and revenue created — but these are temporary jobs which leave a lasting and potentially irreparable scar on our landscape, way of life and tourism industry.”

It is estimated that the total maximum lifetime value of Marcellus shale play in Allegany County is $15.72 billion, and $32.4 billion in Garrett County, according to the paper. The Utica shale play is estimated to be even greater.

“The chamber recognizes that while shale gas development holds tremendous economic development potential, the growth of this industry also presents challenges, including strains on existing infrastructure as well as environmental impact concerns,” states the paper. “We cannot miss this incredible development opportunity and by working together we can ensure that shale gas development is handled correctly providing the greatest benefits with only minimal risks.”

Natural gas is difficult to extract from shale because the gas is trapped in tiny pores within the rock, according to the paper. Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and horizontal drilling have made extracting commercially via-ble in recent years. Fracking has been used in the county since the 1950s by Texas Easter Gas Pipeline Co. with no apparent negative impact, according to the paper.

Although the process of fracking has been around for decades, the technique for fracturing shale rock is somewhat new and has been used on Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and New York. Activity in Maryland has not occurred yet, pending the development of regulations, according to the paper. Allegany and Garrett counties are the only areas in the state with natural gas reserves in Marcellus shale, according to a previous Times-News article.

“For a community that is so environmentally conscious and touts sustainability, we believe that Garrett County is perfectly suited to be a leader in supplying natural gas to the Eastern continental United States,” states the paper.

“We further believe that Maryland has the leadership in place to ensure that responsible drilling of shale gas can take place utilizing known techniques and best practices in a safe and responsible manner.”

Contact Elaine Blaisdell at

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Buying or selling real estate in Garrett County or Deep Creek Lake, Maryland? Call Jay Ferguson of Railey Realty for all of your real estate needs! I take great pride in referrals, and I assure you, I will take great care of your friends, family & colleagues!

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Garrett nears OK for Heritage Area

Chamber of Commerce will manage county’s plan
Megan Miller
Cumberland Times-News

— OAKLAND — Garrett County took a significant step Tuesday toward to having some of its sites designated part of Maryland’s 12th — and possibly final — certified Heritage Area.

The Maryland Heritage Areas program is intended to help communities use their local culture, history and natural resources to develop a tourism trade that will strengthen their economies.

The entire county was named a recognized heritage area by the Maryland Heritage Areas Authority in 2003. But the process to become a certified heritage area is extensive.

On Tuesday the county commission approved the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce as the managing entity for the county’s Heritage Area Maintenance Plan, which is the cornerstone of the process.

The plan is still in development, but will basically lay out the county’s Heritage Area goals and specific steps and strategies for reaching them.

An advisory group made up of representatives from several county agencies has been working for more than a year, with the aid of a consultant, on the early phases of the process.

In Garrett County, the Heritage Area will include not only historical sites, but also sites like Spruce Forest Artisan Village that are important culturally, according to Peggy Jamison, a member of the group.

“This is a discussion of the sites and what we could do to link them, improve them, add to them,” Jamison told the commission. “The plan is a working plan.”

Canal Place in Allegany County is one of just 11 certified heritage areas in the state.

The MHAA has awarded more than $21 million in financial assistance and leveraged approximately $73.5 million in non-state funds for heritage projects statewide since it was created in 1996, according to a news release from the agency.

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