Recently, the Columbia County Convention and Visitors Bureau adopted a position in support of the general obligation bond referendum to finance the construction of an aquatic and tennis center. Here's why:
• The county's vision for the gateway at Lewiston Road and Interstate 20 is one that will allow our community to grow. Pulling people off the highway with attractions, hotels and restaurants puts money in our pockets, relieving our individual tax burden by collecting funds that out-of-town visitors will spend at these and other facilities.
• Columbia County's tourism industry has been focused primarily on fishing and activities around the lake. The drought that we're in makes continuing to depend primarily on that industry difficult. Weather conditions and the amount of water that remains in the lake make this a continued source of concern.
According to a Travel Industry of America study for the Georgia Department of Economic Development, in 2007, visitors to Columbia County generated close to $107 million in economic impact, sustaining 1,140 jobs and generating $3.24 million in local tax revenue. This means that for every household in the county, visitors provided $126.84 in tax revenue last year - and that's less than what the average household would pay to build this facility!
The CVB agrees with the county's vision to be proactive in diversifying our economy by finding another way to "hook 'em" off the highway!
• Let's use our I-20 frontage: Beyond the income from local, state and regional sporting events at both the aquatic and tennis centers, there is also the income that will come into the county from folks enjoying the planned outdoor water feature. The location is so convenient to I-20 that visitors will be encouraged to spend another day to enjoy the water feature after visiting Adventure Crossing, the Laurel and Hardy Museum, etc.
• Folks miss the water park: And finally, our area is missing an outdoor water park. When I started working at the Savannah Rapids Regional Visitor Information Center two years ago, we had visitors come from outside the area dressed in their swimsuits carrying inner tubes and beach towels hoping to spend the day at the now-closed Krystal River Water Park. The staff at the Visitors Center has to discourage folks from swimming in the Canal every day. Wouldn't it be great to have somewhere for them to go on those hot summer afternoons? I know many neighborhoods are blessed to have their own swimming pool, however, the majority of the neighborhoods in the county do not have access to a pool and this would be a great resource for all to use.
The members of the CVB Board of Directors and I would be happy to review these and other reasons for building these important community resources. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (706) 312-1361
Beda Johnson, Director
Columbia County CVB
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