This morning I enjoyed a brief but interesting discussion
with KC Keefer, the brilliant videographer behind the Genuine Route 66 series and a series of videos on forgotten places such as the Painted Desert Trading Post and Glenrio in partnership with Dr. Nick Gerlich. The topic of conversation was Route 66 as a catalyst for economic development and revitalization in rural communities. As that has been the subject of recent Jim Hinckley’s America blog posts as well as Facebook live programs, I found his insights and thoughts to be particularly relevant.
In building the foundation for economic development in a community, tourism as a primary component is a very poor choice. However, tourism should always be considered a component in the creation of an economic development plan, especially in a community that has Route 66 as the main street through its historic business district. Additionally, in these communities all marketing should include a Route 66 element. The popularity of the road will magnify these type of initiatives. often with tremendous results.
As important as Route 66 in in regards to marketing or revitalization initiatives, myopic focus on what Route 66 was can be as detrimental as not using it at all. It is imperative that a community also focus on the future. As an example consider the embryonic Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum in Kingman, Arizona. In addition, Route 66 should also be utilized as a means for showcasing the unique attributes of a community. If a town can blend these components in a single package, and has the leadership needed to get community buy in, it will be transformed, regardless of rural location or size. (more…)