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Wednesday, December 10, 2008


You folks over in Norton are rollin' in the dough. Did you know that? It says so right here. Pay no attention to all those abandoned buildings and lines at the unemployment office. Good times are here. And you lucky people down in Galax, you probably thought all those textile plant closings and accompanying layoffs were bringing you ruin. Well, think again. You economy is booming!

This according to a (paid?) consultant cheerleader:
What impact is the Crooked Road having on the region's economy?

An independent consultant traveled the length of the Crooked Road, visited the major venues along the way, and interviewed hundreds of people. Robert Jones documented what many already suspected, that the Crooked Road is making a significant contribution to the economy of western Virginia. Jones estimates that 264,000 people have visited the Crooked Road in 2008.

The impact on the economy, $23 million, a figure that equates to 445 full-time jobs. [link]
And just who are those hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Crooked Road? Well, they include me. I've been up and down that road many times. I guess my stops at the local BP for gas are indeed a contributor to the local economy, but does it have anything to do with "tourism"? My guess is, yes. How else is this guy going to get those numbers up? If not, how does he separate my visits to Clintwood from those of ol' Pap from uppards of Alabama come up 'is way a'lookin' fer some pickin' and a'grinnin?

The Roanoke Times provides a bit more detail (if a woefully little bit) on the same news item:
Floyd and Galax are clearly seeing the benefits of being part of the approximately 260-mile-long corridor linking Franklin County to Dickenson County. According to the study, accommodation spending in Floyd (home of the Floyd Country Store) increased by 90 percent from 2003 to 2007, and by 232 percent in Galax (home of the Rex Theater and Blue Ridge Music Center).
What do you want to bet, that number for Galax includes the new motels over on I-77? Which is actually closer to Hillsville. That "accommodations" figure can get mighty slippery when you try to separate out the travelers on their way to Dollywood from those looking for the Ralph Stanley Museum.

Which makes for a good point in itself. Rather than use undefinable numbers to draw wild conclusions about the "booming" tourist traffic in and out of Southwest Virginia, why didn't this consultant give us an actual, quantifiable, undeniable headcount at the Stanley Museum? Because the number would be less than staggering?

Look, no legitimate study is going to take "accommodations" in general and make more of them than is there. The Hotel Floyd might work. Or even the Cranesnest Campsite over near Clintwood. Have their occupancy numbers skyrocketed?

Using the Holiday Inn Express on the interstate won't fly. Not if the researcher is looking for legitimate answers to very important questions.

But what do I know?

Anyway, this consultant says times are great in Southwest Virginia. His numbers say so. Others are less ... kind. You be the judge.

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For more on how all this works (not meaning to use it to disparage Mr. Jones's work; we're not given any real details or his methodology), see "'Tourism' Ain't What It Used To Be."