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Capitalize on tourism to invest in future

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By Robert Myles

We need to capitalize on tourism
“The tourists are coming, the tourists are coming!”
With all due apologies to Paul Revere, William Dawes and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, let the rallying cry ring out; for indeed the tourist are coming.
In point of fact they are already here. Tens of thousands of tourists come from all over the world to visit our community each year. The draw is of course the bourbon industry and the burgeoning Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Whether you drink it or not; whether you love it or avoid it, the facts are plain: Bourbon is big business in Anderson County.
The Wild Turkey Distillery was visited by 37,000 tourists in 2010. Tours at the Four Roses Distillery were enjoyed by 23,000 in that same year. While there is certainly some overlap in the visitation of the two distilleries, it is clear that the bourbon industry brings over 40,000 tourists to our beautiful corner of the world each year.
It is also good to keep in mind that the 2010 figures reported by Four Roses and Wild Turkey reflect visitation in a year that can only be described as economically depressed.
This being the case, there is every reason to believe that the number of tourists visiting our community can and will increase.
Four Roses has already started expansion plans that will provide additional and much needed office space this year, and will double the size of the Four Roses visitors’ center in 2012. Four Roses has experienced double digit growth in visitor numbers since its visitor’s center opened, and expects that trend to continue well into the future as the growing popularity of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail brings visitors this way.
The Bond’s Mill Road facility is an architectural gem that is awash in its unique brand of Kentucky hospitality and heritage. It must be noted that the Spanish mission-style architecture of the distillery is somewhat rare in Kentucky.
However, it is the rare and the unusual that brings in tourists from all over the world.
Add to this the marvelous legend of Four Roses founder Paul Jones Jr. and his beautiful Southern Belle, and you have a consistent tourist attraction that never fails to charm.
On the other side of the county, Wild Turkey can boast not only of a picturesque location on the bluffs above the Kentucky River, it can now be equally proud of the recently completed expansion to its distilling facilities on Versailles Road.
As any economic development guru will tell you, nothing says commitment to a community quite like expansion.
Grand as they are however, the facilities at Wild Turkey, must take a respectful back seat to Anderson County’s premier ambassador, Mr. Jimmy Russell. No product or community ever had a finer representative than our own Mr. Russell.
Whether in Australia, New York or Louisville, Mr. Russell never forgets his roots and never misses an opportunity to spread a good word about Anderson County.
The potent combination of Wild Turkey and Jimmy Russell have for years ushered the world to our very doorstep. We have no doubt that they will continue to do so for many years to come.
In the words of the late pitchman, Billy Mays, “But wait folks, that’s not all!” No discussion of the tourism in Anderson County is complete without kudos being tossed in the direction of the American Legion Healing Field and Lovers Leap Winery. Of course, the numberof tourists generated by the Healing Field, I would respectfully suggest, is not really the point. Unlike other tourist venues, the great importance of the Healing Field lies in the memory of those it honors, not in the potential economic benefit it may generate.
Nonetheless, the American Legion has created a beautiful and moving memorial that does in fact draw people from all over the country to Lawrenceburg.
As to Lovers Leap, hundreds of visitors wandered this scenic vineyard nestled in the rolling hills of Anderson County. They come to taste the official wine of the Kentucky Derby Festival and to enjoy another product that is home grown and uniquely Anderson County.
The winery also sponsors multiple festivals and events each year. Local and regional bands perform on the winery stage and provide a delightful evening for county residents and tourists alike.
As you can see, and at the risk of repeating myself, the tourists are here. They are north of town, rast of town and eest of town. In fact, they pass right through town. Unfortunately, most of them do not stop in town.
As a community, we are staring into the face of potential prosperity, yet we yearn like unrequited lovers for that shiny new Toyota plant.
We long for Ford or BMW to swoop in and solve all our economic woes in one blinding flash that is roughly akin to the civic version of winning the lottery.  
And all the while, the admittedly undernourished, but still hefty 800 pound gorilla in the room is tourism. It is not difficult to imagine the success of several businesses that cater to the 40,000 tourists currently visiting us each year.
If you think that 40,000 potential customers is not enough for a business to make a go of it, you would do well to remember that the entire population of Anderson County is a little over 20,000, and Walmart seems to be doing pretty well.
Imagine a downtown that caters to the tourist. As you imagine this, resist the tendency to complain about the lack of parking and overcrowding. (Please remember that a deserted downtown has plenty of, but no need for, parking.)
It has often been quoted that an average tourist has $75 in his pocket to spend. Do the math; that sort of money will support a variety businesses. Businesses mean jobs and jobs mean a better life for us all.
There are of course problems. This is as obvious as it is unremarkable. The point remains; we can continue to dwell on the problems and continue to stagnate.
We can believe the nattering nabobs of negativism (my thanks to William Safire), or we can grab the 800 pound gorilla by the throat, wring every ounce of economic development out of him and send him on his way telling everyone he meets that his trip to Anderson County was an absolute delight.
Again, at the risk of repeating myself, “The tourists are here, the tourists are here!”
How ’bout we invite ’em to stay a while.

Robert Myles is a member of the Anderson County Tourism Commission, and attorney for the Lawrenceburg City Council.