|The iconic Blue Swallow Motel in
Tucumcari, New Mexico
In the fall of 1862, Henry Wickenburg discovered gold in a hard rock outcropping of quartz. Riches didn’t come easy as extraction of the ore required financing, hard work, and miners. As it turned out, the Wickenburg discovery that became the Vulture Mine was one of the richest strikes in the Territory of Arizona.
In the same year there was another major discovery of gold in the Arizona Territory. This time, however, fortune came easy. In just a few short weeks, Pauline Weaver and his party purportedly gathered more than $100,000 in gold nuggets from the slopes and washes on what became known as Rich Hill near present day Stanton, Arizona.
You might think that this is obvious, especially in communities along Route 66 in the southwest. Surprisingly, however, numerous municipalities seem to be blissfully unaware of the legions of French, German, Chinese, Australian, Italian, Dutch, British, and Japanese travelers that fill their restaurants, shop in their supermarkets, or spend the evening in their motels.
In communities such as these, tourism and economic development are often viewed as separate components. More often than not, in these towns tourism is poorly staffed, poorly funded, and on occasion, usually consists of little more than a dusty museum staffed by elderly volunteers.
|A Czech tour group at Mr. D’z.|
Using the Route 66 renaissance as a means for paving the streets with gold isn’t a complicated procedure. It becomes even easier if that community is nestled in the vast Technicolor landscapes of the American southwest.
Credit for launching the rather dramatic transformation of Pontiac, Illinois, a town that has experienced six consecutive years of increased tourism, as well as the establishment of countless new businesses, is given to a retiree who would greet visitors with a roll of red carpet.
In Galena, Kansas, a town of less than 4,000 people, it began with four women, a condemned service station, free bottled water, and a dream. Today, a town that recently had one functioning street light along the Route 66 corridor, has new restaurants, new sidewalks, new streetlights, pocket parks, and even a new state of the art medical center.
The transformation of Seligman, and even the birth of the Route 66 renaissance is credited to a barber.
Leadership, vision, outside of the box thinking, utilizing assets on hand, be they people, scenery, or history, and a willingness to seize opportunity can transform a community from a stop into a destination. Transforming a community into a destination ensures a future bright with promise.
Will your community forever be a stop on the way to somewhere else, or will it become a destination?