Monday, October 09, 2006

Wait 10 or 15 Years or Invest Now?

Branson continues to amaze me! I’ve written a great deal about this town of 6,000 deep in the heart of the Ozarks, which transformed themselves into the live music capital of the USA. And, they aren’t just sitting still now that they have achieved great success.

I was there in August, touring and writing about the $430 million Branson Landing Project, a TIF supported lakefront lifestyle center and convention center. At the time I learned of a new $78 million pageant style theater complex, regional airport and $500 million transportation system are all either being constructed or in various stages of planning.

This past week a $250 million European-themed Pinnacle Falls project on 300 acres west of town was proposed to the city. The project would include an indoor water-park and aquarium and be partially financed through tax increment financing (TIF) on land that currently pays $115 in property taxes. This is rough, rolling land!

The public hearing was attended by 75 local business owners and residents who showed their approval for the TIF in an applause poll during the meeting. Having a broad base of support for projects like this is important for a community. I wrote about what can happen if you throw cold water on each such project in my blog on Friday. Branson is not such a town.

Ed Akers, a longtime insurance agent in Branson, spoke in support at the public hearing, “TIF is a very emotional issue. Every business benefits from tourism in this community. We can wait 10 or 15 years to see if something develops there, or we can develop now so it brings in a return.”

Branson is on a roll. Sales tax revenue has been up 16%, 10%, 21% and 12% in the last four months of this year when compared to the previous year.

If you haven’t been to Branson, you need to visit there to see what they are doing.

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