CONNEAUT, Ohio - If you travel into Ohio from Pennsylvania on Interstate 90 west, one of the first things you'll see is the Ohio Welcome Center in Ashtabula County.
But Conneaut leaders believe the center is no welcome at all — budget cuts have left the facility with few pamphlets and no tour guide on staff.
Conneaut Councilman Douglas Hedrick contacted the NewsChannel5 Solutions Center hoping funding to the welcome center could somehow be restored
"The sign says Ohio welcoming center, and to be quite frank, it isn't very welcoming," said Hedrick. "The state is going to say that they can't afford to fund it, but we take the position that you can't afford not to fund it. We need full-time help here; we need a full time person to welcome people that are coming into our community."
Hedrick told NewsChannel5 Ohio tourism draws in $36 billion, and about 190 million visitors annually.
Thomas Smile, with the Conneaut Board of Tourism believes information is key in getting people to spend money here in the buckeye state.
Smile wants the Tourism Ohio Advisory Board to once again hire a full-time guide at the welcome center as soon as possible.
"There's somebody here that could tell them how far they are from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, where the wineries are located, how do you get to those wineries," explained Smile.
"We're not even allowed to put our information out here without paying somebody else, a private institution to put our brochures in this."
NewsChannel5 contacted Ohio Rep. John Patterson (D) about the welcome center, and he explained that he'll be meeting with the Tourism Ohio Advisory Board on Tuesday, May 27, in an effort to restore funding to the center.
"There are so many wonderful things to do here in Ohio, but without the proper information, travelers are more likely to drive straight through," said Patterson. "We need to restore funding to the welcome center."
NewsChannel5 and newsnet5.com will continue to follow this developing story.
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