By way of introduction, I serve as President/ CEO of the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce, where we represent over 430 businesses in the Eureka Springs area. In keeping with the Mission Statement and our By-laws, the Board of Directors of the Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce has crafted, approved and now offers this position statement:
“The Greater Eureka Springs Chamber of Commerce stands in opposition to anything that would have a negative impact on the economy of Eureka Springs and the quality of life, and will continue to inform and educate our members.”
According to the Annual Tourism and Travel Report produced by the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism, tourism and travel related expenditures in Arkansas totaled just under $6 billion in 2013. Of that total, $783 million (13%) was generated in the four counties of northwest Arkansas. Our region is second in the state (second only to central Arkansas) in travel related revenue generated. Travel related payroll in northwest Arkansas exceeded $171 million, travel related state tax revenue over $47 million. All of this as a result of over 3 million 3 hundred thousand visitors to northwest Arkansas in 2013.
In Carroll County, travel related expenditures totaled over $174 million. Travel related payroll for Carroll County reached over $35 million dollars through 2,700 jobs. Carroll County contributed over $11 million in state taxes through the tourism and travel industry.
Tourism is the primary economic driver for western Carroll County, the only significant industry in Eureka Springs, and is the second largest industry in the state. While considering that, please remember that 76% of all visitors indicate that natural scenic beauty is the major factor in considering vacation destinations.
We certainly understand the concern for negative economic impact to our region, we support the continued question of proven need and the idea that ALL alternative options have not been explored. We also support the question of fairness, consideration and concern for the property owners that are to be impacted. It is a fair question to ask…”Has the ASPC demanded absolute proof that this line is a necessity, and that ALL options have been considered.”
I applaud the tenacity and steadfast efforts of Save the Ozarks. The community has pulled together and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money, not as a radical, unfounded group, but as a group of citizens that love the God given beauty of the Ozark Mountains, our pristine waters, and the basic rights of the people that have chosen to take care of this special place in such a special state.