Making an impact

Published 3:16 pm Friday, August 8, 2008

By Staff
Want proof the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center in Williamston is bringing in additional revenue to Martin County?
That proof should come in the form of an increase in occupancy-tax revenues, which increased from $122,324 in fiscal year 2005-2006 to $206,376 in fiscal year 2006-2007, according to information supplied by the N.C. Department of Commerce.
That’s jump of $84,052.
The majority of that increase no doubt can be traced back to the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center. After all, the center has been expanding in recent years. In April, the center held a groundbreaking ceremony for the new 29,000-square-foot barn on Thursday. The new barn, known as Barn Unit 3, will have 152 permanent horse stalls, two heated wash bays, restrooms and shower facilities. The barn is being built to attract larger equestrian-related competitions and events to the center.
With expanded facilities comes horse-related events with longer durations. The longer people attending and participating in those events stay in the county, the more they spend for lodging, meals and meeting other needs.
The increase in occupancy-tax revenues comes as no surprise. Neither will such increases that occur after the new barn is built and in use.
The center, which sits on a 168-acre site, has had a positive economic impact on the Martin County community since it opened in 2000, according to county and center officials. They should know; they have seen the overall revenue generated by the center continue to increase over the years since it opened.
Tourism in Martin County generated $27.24 million in tourism-related revenues in 2007, an increase of 2.6 percent over 2006. In 2006, tourism in Martin County generated $26.54 million in economic impact, a 9.2 percent increase over 2005.
From 2001-2002 through 2006-2007, Martin County collected $751,053 in occupancy-tax revenue.
Martin County Travel and Tourism spokesman Edward Harrington says there is more to the increase in occupancy-tax revenues than just the agricultural center.
More and more visitors are coming to Martin County to use paddle trails there, take advantage of bird-watching opportunities and spend time on or at the Roanoke River, he contends.
Although it’s been said before, it’s worth repeating. For many years, the regions’s history, rivers, sounds and recreational opportunities have attracted people, people who spend time and money. There is no doubt the Senator Bob Martin Eastern Agricultural Center and the equestrian events it attracts are becoming a major attraction, too. Martin County and its neighbors must take advantage of that situation.
Martin County, its neighboring counties and the state must do more to promote the center — and its neighboring attractions — so that as many people, businesses, industries and local governments as possible derive benefits from what the center offers to its community.