We need more, not less

Published 10:49 am Thursday, August 27, 2009

Manufacturing jobs are dwindling; so are the number of family farms.

Both of those sad facts tear away at the fabric of America, especially in rural areas where good jobs are hard to find.

All we have left, other than pride, is the heritage rooted deep within our communities. We are the protectors of what has been handed down through generations of families. We have done a great job of preserving that heritage…in some cases, making significant improvements.

Heritage, believe it or not, sells. Others want to see it, touch it, feel it for themselves. With the right promotion, heritage tourism can pour large sums of money into a rural economy.

In the Roanoke-Chowan area, we had a big voice to help us promote heritage tourism.

Now, thanks to the General Assembly, that voice is silent.

As part of the reorganization of the North Carolina Heritage Tourism program, Kay Mitchell Thomas lost her job. Kay, a longtime promoter of Historic Murfreesboro and one of the key reasons behind the success of the North Carolina Watermelon Festival, was eager to show other northeastern North Carolina communities how heritage tourism can fill local coffers.

The decision by state leaders to ax Kay’s job, as well as seven other Tourism Development Officer positions across the North Carolina, couldn’t come at a more inopportune time. With our job base dwindling due to plant closings and agricultural losses, tourism remains as a strong industry. Annually, visitors to our state spend over $16 billion, money used to generate jobs….money that spills over to other non-tourism related sectors.

How does that old saying go…“You have to spend money to make money.” In the case of the state cutting these eight positions for an annual savings of just over $400,000, we’ll lose more in the long run than we’ll gain.

We implore the General Assembly to take another look at this decision. We need more tourism specialists like Kay Mitchell Thomas, not less of them.