The Accidental Tourist? CARROLL COUNTY

January 22, 1993

Judging from what Commissioner Donald I. Dell said at the Carroll County Tourism Association meeting this week, he apparently doesn't understand the simple economic concept known as the multiplier effect. If the budget crisis continues, he warned that funding for the county's Office of Tourism could be eliminated. Mr. Dell said he would rather patch a pothole than promote tourism.

Last year, the county spent $119,400, or about 1 percent of itstotal budget, on the tourism office, which publicizes and promotes local attractions. While Carroll County is not Ocean City, it does have events and sights to attract day-trippers and overnight visitors, sandwiched as it is between Baltimore, Washington and Civil War battlefields.

These visitors generate economic activity. In 1992, a county audit conservatively estimated that the tourist office was responsible for generating $820,000 in tourist spending. Those dollars created jobs that put money into county residents' pockets, who then bought food, clothing and fuel that ultimately generated more tax revenues. Based on these figures, spending on the tourism office has a multiplier of 6.87, meaning that every dollar spent on that office generates $6.87 in tourism spending.

The real impact of the tourist industry may be greater even than that. Publicizing special events such as the county fair, the widely renowned wine festival and the towns' seasonal fests brings more people to them. These visitors also buy produce at roadside stands, eat at local restaurants and buy goods at local shops. Commissioner Julia W. Gouge understands the importance of promoting tourism as part of a broad economic development strategy.

Mr. Dell, unfortunately, has the same penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude toward the county's economic development program as does toward tourism. Rather than hire a full-time director, the commissioners -- at Mr. Dell's urging -- have been making do with the commissioners' executive assistant as the county's interim economic development director, while neighboring jurisdictions strive to become more aggressive and sophisticated about business recruitment.

The old saying -- to make money, you have to spend some money -- applies to tourism and economic development. Yes, the budget is tight, but cutting these areas seems counterproductive.

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