|By Hugh R. Morley, The Record,
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Dec. 1, 2005 - If you build it, they will come.
That's one strategy for luring visitors to the Meadowlands, with its three golf courses on the way, slew of new hotels and monster-size entertainment center under construction.
But just to make sure, the Meadowlands Regional Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday held its first trade fair to promote the area as a tourist and business destination.
The daylong fair, which featured 48 vendor booths and four discussion panels, sought to tout the area as an alternative leisure spot for visitors who otherwise would spend their tourist dollars across the Hudson.
At a morning panel, state and local officials outlined the "dream" of the future for the area, and emphasized how much it has changed from the old image of a swamp and a garbage dump.
"This is not your father's Meadowlands anymore," speaker Bob Ceberio, executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission, told an audience of about 100 at the convention, held at the Meadowlands Exposition Center in Secaucus.
He said that although his agency's master plan calls for $5.5 billion in economic development to be completed in 20 years, he expects that goal to be achieved much sooner.
Others depicted the area as an "eco-tourism" haven, with canoeing and kayaking on the Hackensack River and bird watching, hiking and fishing nearby.
Given these activities, and the swelling numbers of restaurants and sports and entertainment facilities in the Meadowlands, it has never been better placed to make its mark, said Jim Kirkos, the chamber CEO.
"Here we have a hidden jewel," he said. "There is a strong market to bring visitors to the region, from a couple of hours away."
He said the convention was aimed in part at convincing meeting planners, convention organizers and tour operators that the Meadowlands boasts all the amenities and activities they would need.
Another goal, he said, was to alert the local community to the rapidly evolving array of leisure opportunities.
The Meadowlands Liberty Convention & Visitors Bureau, which was created by the chamber in March to promote the area to the travel industry, organized the convention.
To add appeal, the bureau broadened its focus beyond the Meadowlands to include the Hudson River waterfront, from Liberty State Park to the George Washington Bridge.
The bureau has created three Web sites with tools such as a hotel planner, a calendar of events, restaurant listings and transit maps and schedules. The bureau also has created five touch-screen kiosks deployed at sports, transportation and entertainment locations.
"The idea is great," said Gilson Puglisie, director of corporate design for caterer Fabulous Foods of Moonachie, as he created a Christmas decoration with Roquefort cheese balls at his booth.
He said he attends conventions across the country promoting the company. "Let's see if this one works."
To see more of The Record, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.NorthJersey.com.
Copyright (c) 2005, The Record, Hackensack, N.J.
Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News. For information on republishing this content, contact us at (800) 661-2511 (U.S.), (213) 237-4914 (worldwide), fax (213) 237-6515, or e-mail email@example.com.