Former and new Chamber of Commerce presidents give a nod to merging footsteps


Tom Turnbull had déjà vu Thursday at Terry Hills in Batavia.

The formerly retired president and current interim president of Genesee County Chamber of Commerce didn’t think he would again be front and center at the agency’s annual meeting. Turnbull stepped in earlier this year for Erik Fix when he left the position to become assistant manager for the city of Batavia.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Turnbull said Thursday to the room of attendees. “Now first thing that comes to mind from this year was the Chamber’s 50th year anniversary … those of you that don’t know the story, the Batavia Chamber of Commerce and the Leroy Chamber of Commerce merged in 1972, and they were smart enough to merge two chambers to make it not just the Batavia-LeRoy Chamber of Commerce, but a county wide Chamber of Commerce, and it was a great move, and that happened 50 years ago this year.”

He reminisced about the three celebration events the Chamber hosted, including an open house at the Chamber office on Park Road; a founding fathers reception with John Dwyer and Jim Benson representing the Batavia and Le Roy chambers, respectively; and the annual chamber awards dinner.

Other events have been an agricultural dinner; a popular Batavia-based Home Show; a golf tournament; ribbon-cuttings and welcomes to new businesses; and a monthly podcast.

“Obviously, these last two years have been a challenge for tourism, with the pandemic. But our staff has been very creative. And they’ve done a very good job and had to change their strategy a little bit for the past couple of years,” he said. “And this year, this is just an example of one of the things they did, we can’t focus on international, or even our Canadian travelers, for the last couple of years, so we had to focus on more local, more day trip type of people that were coming into the county. And the dining guide was part of that. So we did a giant dining guide promotion and a lot of different portions of what’s going on in the county.”

Those efforts seemed to pay off. Each household in the county would need to be taxed an extra $600 to replace the visitor-generated taxes received by New York State and local governments in 2021, he said. From lodging — at $17 million— to food/dining, retail and tourism payroll at $48 million, $16 million and $62 million, respectively — visitors will have brought an estimated $184 million to the county this year, he said.

As for business news, Quality Inn has been purchased and will be replaced by Holiday Inn and Candlewood Suites, he said. A $12 million renovation will re-open the site with a revamped hotel and Palm Island waterpark, he said.

“We have a lot of great hotels in this area. But that’s really been the flagship hotel, and I think with the Palm Island, it’s really important that that busy building doesn’t stay there empty,” he said. “I think it’s going to be really good for the community when they get better.”


He switched gears a bit from the work of the Chamber to the people of the Chamber, including veteran staff members Kelly Bermingham, and Kelly Rapone. He also introduced newly hired president Brian Cousins, who lives with his wife Cherie in Corfu.

“I think one of the things that we’re really looking forward to next year is new leadership,” Turnbull said. “Brian Cousins is currently the director of accommodations at Six Flags, with over 25 years of dedication to helping families have fun and create lifelong memories. Holding various roles in marketing operations, entertainment and accommodations has provided him with a wide variety of skill sets throughout the hospitality, tourism and theme park industry.”

A humble Cousins admitted that Turnbull was a hard act to follow. The incoming president is looking forward to this opportunity with the chamber and Genesee County, he said.

“I’ve lived here for a very long time with my wife, over 25 years, we’ve lived in the county and it’s been great. I look forward to meeting everyone as much as I possibly can,” Cousins said “I’m very humbled and very honored to be able to follow Tom’s footsteps.”


Top Photo: Interim Chamber of Commerce President Tom Turnbull looks back over the past year during the agency’s annual meeting Thursday at Terry Hills in Batavia; newly hired President Brian Cousins says a few words about his new role and the future; and Turnbull shows several photos of past community events. Photos by Howard Owens.

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