Cumberland Times-News

December 2, 2008

Tourism does aid quality of life

To the Editor:

I’d like to reply to Don Carns Jr.’s letter, published here on Nov. 23, titled “Heritage tourism, living wages and the roundabout.” Since that letter is a mish-mash of various loosely related rants, I’ll respond only to that part of his letter that deals with heritage tourism and jobs.

Mr. Carns, I don’t think you did your research. You are just guessing.

Tourism directly generates jobs. It also indirectly creates jobs and generates revenue across the whole local economy. And cultural/heritage tourism, of which Allegany County has abundant resources, contributes significantly to that somewhat intangible element called “quality of life.”

The first point where you are guessing is wages. You said, “Once buildings are built and renovations are done, the construction jobs are gone. Only thing left are some service block jobs paying less than $8 an hour.”

The hourly wages in museums, history, and parks, average $15.14 (September 2008 statistics). For manufacturing, the average hourly wage is $17.80, a $2.66 difference, not a $9.80 difference, Mr. Carns.

Cultural/heritage jobs will open in our area if we all get behind the effort. We don’t have to provide tax incentives or utility hookups or wait for business to build factories. We already have the infrastructure for it. For example, the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park now receives more than 3 million recreation visits annually.

I’m not saying we don’t need manufacturing jobs too. But those businesses will relocate here only if the “quality of life” in Allegany County improves. (More about quality of life below.)

And you are guessing about manufacturing jobs. Where will these manufacturing jobs you expect to arrive come from, Mr. Carns? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings in March 2008 were leisure and hospitality, 520,000, compared to Manufacturing, 252,000.

Also according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Wage and salary jobs in arts, entertainment, and recreation are projected to grow about 31 percent over the 2006-2016 period, compared with 11 percent for all other industries combined.”

And tourism generates tax income for the area. County tourism taxes and grants, for the Western Region of Maryland: The total to the state is $20,290,000 and to our local area, $18,290,000, according to the Maryland comptroller of the treasury.

Maryland’s latest visitor data confirms that, in 2006, Maryland welcomed more than 28 million visitors who generated more than $11.4 billion in visitor spending. That figure was up from $10.7 billion in 2005. During 2006, the Maryland tourism industry generated more than $895 million in state and local taxes and provided more than 116,000 jobs to Maryland residents.

Visitors to Maryland pumped a record $13.6 billion into the state’s economy during calendar year 2007 — an increase of 2.9 percent over the previous calendar year. The tourism industry generated an estimated $1.7 billion in state and local taxes in 2007, while employing nearly 141,000 state residents. Earlier this year, the state announced that Maryland welcomed an estimated 27.2 million visitors during 2007 — a decrease of 3.8 percent from 2006. More than 75 percent were leisure visitors and the other 24 percent were business travelers.

Did you know that Maryland households would pay an average of $420 more in state and local taxes or face cuts in programs or services without the spending of our visitors?

And, about getting companies to move here, communities with high “quality of life” ratings have a competitive advantage in the recruitment of new businesses and retention of talented workers. Quality of life for employees is the third most important factor in locating a business, according to an annual survey of chief executives done in 1989.

Quality of life factors include low cost of living, low crime, quality housing, hospitals, schools, parks and recreation, entertainment, cultural attractions, historical sites, museums, art galleries and all those things which make an area enjoyable to live in. Cumberland has a lot going for it and the development of the cultural/heritage infrastructure, what attracts tourists, will also attract new businesses to locate here because cultural and heritage development improves the quality of life.

And, Mr. Carns, I don’t know where you got the notion that George Washington “did not like Western Maryland, especially Cumberland?” You are either guessing about that, too, or rewriting history.

George Sell

Bowling Green