Articles

Congressman discusses economic boosters

Plattsburgh Press-Republican

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Washington, Feb 24, 2012 | Sean Magers (202-225-4611) | comments
PLATTSBURGH — As the economy continues to slowly improve, North Country Congressman Bill Owens believes efforts like extending the payroll-tax cuts can help.
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by JOE LoTEMPLIO Press-Republican

PLATTSBURGH — As the economy continues to slowly improve, North Country Congressman Bill Owens believes efforts like extending the payroll-tax cuts can help.

"This will maintain people's take-home pay, and that is very important," he said, explaining his vote last week in favor of extending the payroll tax.

"We need to keep working at it until we get the economy stabilized."

FOCUS ON SMALL BUSINESS

Owens said that helping small businesses is also a key to improving the economy.

To learn more, he spent some time Wednesday morning visiting Touraid Travel Inc. in Plattsburgh.

The firm is billed as one of the largest and fastest-growing vacation retailers in the country, generating more than $27 million in cruise, tour and resort sales in 2012.

The company operates out of a location on Route 3 and employs 52 people, with a mix of full-time, part-time and temporary staff.

Touraid Travel is a top sales producer for many of the most popular vacation companies, including Carnival Cruise Line, Norwegian Cruise Line, Princess Cruises, Sandals Resorts and Tauck Tours.

The company was just recognized as Royal Caribbean International's Northeast Region Travel Partner of the Year for 2011.

'IMPRESSIVE'

The company is privately held and owned by George M. Barnett, president; Andrew Bonichi, vice president; and Kristin Davenport, vice president.

"I think it helps to visit places like this firsthand to get a sense of what it is like and get a feel for what goes on and see if we can help with any regulatory issues," Owens said.

"This place is impressive, and you get a good vibe when you come in here."

Bonichi talked to Owens about getting relief from burdensome paperwork that is required for some travel purchases.

"Vacations are very important to people, not only because it is their money, it's their time, and we want to make sure we get it right for them," he said.

GAS PRICES

While the economy may be making some positive strides, Owens acknowledged that hikes in gasoline prices could put a halt to any progress. Speculation is that prices may get as high as $5 per gallon by the summer.

"Clearly, this is an area of great concern," he said, adding that he is leaning in favor of releasing some the nation's strategic petroleum reserves to help lower the price.

"But I'm not sure about that, at this point, but we need to get our hands around this," he said.

Owens said the price of gas will likely hinge on what is happening in the Middle East.

He noted the path has been cleared for more oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and in Alaska, but the oil companies are not taking advantage of that.

"Why they are not drilling when they have the go-ahead to and the money to do it raises some questions as to what their real motivation is."

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