Tourism giving Henry County an economic boost

Result: Less in taxes for residents

The Henry County Chamber of Commerce is reporting a positive trend with tourism, locally.

Prominent voices in the community said the welcome trend carries a direct benefit for area residents.

“Tourism is increasingly becoming a major focus of economic development at all levels — federal, state and local,” said Chamber President Kay Pippin. “Tourism brings us needed customers for local businesses, revenue from sales taxes, opportunities to deliver services to people from other places, including foreign countries. Simply stated, tourism puts Henry County on the map.”

Pippin added that NASCAR races at Atlanta Motor Speedway, in Hampton, enable Henry to host thousands of fans each year. “We also have much more to offer visitors to Henry County,” she said. “What the Chamber and [Convention and Visitors Bureau] are doing is finding the best ways to promote all Henry County has to offer, and based on the financial numbers, it appears we are making an impact.”

Laura Luker, director of tourism for the Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitors Bureau, echoed Pippin’s sentiments by saying the money spent by tourists helps to reduce the tax burden on local residents.

Luker said travelers, in 2010, appeared to breathe a “sigh of relief,” and began making more travel plans to areas, including Henry. “While 2009 saw a dip in tourist spending, visitors made up for lost time in 2010 — spending $187 million in Henry County, the highest level of tourism revenue to date,” she said. “The 2010 number is $10.89 million more than was spent by visitors to Henry County in 2009, and even $4 million more than in 2008, when Henry County was experiencing unprecedented growth.”

Luker attributed a measure of Henry’s popularity among tourists to the county’s location.

“When you break those numbers down, it’s spent on gas, lodging, food, and attractions,” said Luker. “Because we have so many exits, and so much to offer on those exits, people are inclined to get off at those exits before they tackle Atlanta. Or, they’re leaving from Atlanta and looking for a place to rest before they continue their trips.”

Luker added that the Chamber obtained a sampling of tourism’s economic impact in Henry, during the speedway’s Labor Day weekend race festivities.

“We did a receipt-redemption program,” she said. “If [patrons] showed us a receipt or receipts from a Henry County business the week before the race, they got prizes depending on how much they turned in.”

Luker said the Chamber collected $16,437.47 in receipts from 108 of the thousands of people who attended the race.

Out-of-town guests contributed $5.65 million to the county’s local tax base in 2010, according to a statement issued by the Chamber, Oct. 13. “This means that each Henry County household had to pay $208 less in taxes, to enjoy the high level of services provided by Henry County, thanks to tourism dollars,” the statement said.

“In addition to the taxes generated, the tourism industry also employed more than 2,000 in Henry County in 2010.”

For more information, visit www.visithenrycountygeorgia.com.