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Leaders tasked with finding support for tourism zone

December 16th, 2011 8:17 am by Staff Report

State officials often talk about the importance of investing in economic development. Jonesborough leaders have a project that will allow those officials to put their money where their mouths are.
The Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved a resolution Monday backing a bill in the state General Assembly to create a Courthouse Square Revitalization and Tourism Development Zone in the town. The legislation would establish a three-block zone surrounding the Washington County Courthouse where the town would be able to keep state sales taxes collected there for tourism marketing and redevelopment.
State budget officials have been resistant to the idea, saying the move could result in as much as $1.5 million annually in state tax dollars going back to Jonesborough. Town officials, however, expect that figure to be closer to $495,000.
Local lawmakers will have to convince skeptical state finance officials that the development benefits likely seen from the zone will outweigh the loss of sales tax revenues.
Certainly, there are a number of things that make establishing a tourism development zone — like one already in existence in Sevierville — seem feasible. One is the fact Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town, already is a historic destination that attracts visitors from far and near. Another is Jonesborough serves as the headquarters of the International Storytelling Center.
Revenue collected from the tourism development zone would go to strengthen the programs and marketing for the ISC, as well as add dollars to efforts to draw even more tourists to downtown Jonesborough.
This is a worthy project that we believe will pay a handsome return on the state’s investment. But this effort will die in the respective finance committees of the House and Senate unless it earns the support of key legislative leaders

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