The articles are a few years old, and the downturn in tourism that resulted from COVID related restrictions blunted the near vertical growth in tourism, but the evidence is still valid. “Atlanta (IL), sales tax revenue jumped 43 percent last year during the peak tourism season of April to August compared to four years ago.” From Waynesville, Missouri, “The city’s sales-tax revenue rose 7 percent last year.” Similar stories can be found about Pontiac, Illinois, Williams, Arizona, and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
A simple Google search shows similar results in a number of Route 66 communities over the course of the past ten years. Further research indicates that the success in each of these communities has several common denominators.
Leadership that builds cooperative partnerships, that inspires and that educates. Leadership with vision. Capital investment by city government in historic district infrastructure to enhance a pedestrian friendly environment and beautification to make the area more inviting for visiotrs as well as investors. An understanding that tourism is not just heads in beds.
As Bill Thomas of the Route 66 Road Ahead Partnership is fond of saying, “Not all economic development is tourism. But all tourism is economic development.” And a key component of tourism is a city that has invested in its future by ensuring that it is inviting to tourists as well as potential new residents or business owners.
Generally I discuss these things in generalities as they are issues that many communities deal with. Today I need to be more direct in the hope that my adopted hometown of Kingman will serve as an example on how to transform the city into a destination rather than as an example of how a community with tremendous potential can languish.
Opportunity is knocking in Kingman, again. I use the term again because we are on the cusp of repeating past mistakes. The past has value but only if we learn from mistakes made. To dwell on the past, to be paralyzed by prior mistakes is counter productive. Put simply, you can’t put crap back in the donkey.
The city has invested in a comprehensive study and funds have been allocated for the Downtown Infrastructure Design Project. The point of contention is that some folks are of the opinion that monies should be diverted to street repairs.
Street repairs are needed. And they will be needed again in two years, in five years and in a decade. But there is overwhelming evidence that investment in a project such as this will serve as a catalyst for long term economic development. And in turn that generates revenues need for street repair and other services.
I am optimistic. This time there is unified support for moving the transformative project forward. The Kingman Area Chamber of Commerce has launched a petition in support, and the passionate volunteers from Kingman Main Street have been working tirelessly to educate the community about the potential benefits. The Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona has announced their support.
Now, let’s just hope that I can make a positive and enthusiastic report after the next city council meeting.