Unless you have been living off the grid with no
access to the internet, the local papers, the radio, or a cell phone it is impossible to not be aware of the ongoing debate about the airport and industrial park. My opinions about the facility and its management are not relevant. Suffice to say that I see the airport, the industrial park, and its management in the context of Kingman as the land of opportunity. Before proceeding I should issue a disclaimer. The ideas expressed in this post are mine, and may not reflect those of the owner, developer, or management of the Promote Kingman initiative.
Even though I lack adequate information needed to form an honest opinion, it is difficult to not also see the airport facility in the context of missed opportunity. From that perspective I am inclined to see it as rather symbolic. Kingman is the land of opportunity but, unfortunately it is also the land of missed opportunity.
Regrettably some people will view this statement as a personal attack, or as an attack on friends. Neither perspective is correct. It is not my intent to accuse or cast aspersions. I am merely stating an opinion derived from extensive interaction with directors of economic development and tourism in various communities in the hope that it will encourage honest discourse and evaluation of problems so we, as a community, can work on solutions that ensure opportunities are not missed in the future. This is not a claim to be an expert on the subject.
First, to fully capitalize on opportunities it is imperative that tourism be integrated as a component of long term economic development planning. In some communities in excess of 50% of sales tax is paid by non residents. In Atlanta, Illinois, a town with a population of less than 2,500 people, integration of tourism and economic development, and a comprehensive plan for community revitalization with a focus on tourism resulted in a demonstrable increase of 40% in sales tax revenue over a 36 month period. In regards to tourism it should be noted that this small rural community has limited resources (an historic grain silo, a clock tower, a business district about four blocks square, Route 66, and a tenuous Abraham Lincoln connection) and a nine month season at best.
Community awareness about the potential for tourism derived economic development in Kingman, and our diverse assets, is still lacking in spite of initiatives such as Promote Kingman. Please, consider these items when discussing a need for increased awareness:
- A guide to Route 66 recently published by the Dutch Route 66 Association includes points of interest in the Kingman area including the wagon road at White Cliffs.
- On Sunday, August 6, Mark Fletcher, an Australian television personality with a syndicated program that also is shown in the UK and New Zealand toured sites in Kingman in preparation of an annual Route 66 tour.
- Addition of the Caverns Grotto, a reservation only dining facility at Grand Canyon Caverns, has been the subject of international media attention.
- A Quebec based production company working with the French Canadian History Channel recently produced a documentary about Route 66. They spent several days in Kingman filming locations including Oatman, Grand Canyon Caverns, and Ramada Kingman.
- Zdnek Jurasek of the Czech Route 66 Association recently completed a video series and documentary about bicycling Route 66 that included the Grand Canyon Caverns, and Kingman locations.
- Heritage tourism is the fastest growing segment of the industry.
- There are companies in at least five countries that specialize in Route 66 tours that include detours to locations such as the Grand Canyon. This is indicative of the fact that the Grand Circle (Kingman is located on the western edge) and Route 66 are two popular attractions.
- The Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation has, with the assistance of Promote Kingman and the Route 66 Cruizers, launched a fund raiser for expansion of the world’s only electric vehicle museum that includes the raffle of a replica 1904 Columbia electric.
- The donation of models by Dutch artist Willem Bor has already resulted in Kingman becoming a destination for travelers.
Now, again, not to criticize or condemn but to encourage honest and informed discourse, lets evaluate a few of the recently missed opportunities.
- Kjetil Sveistrup of Norwegian based Hop Along Tours, for the second time has evaluated Kingman and decided to have his Route 66 tours overnight in Lake Havasu City. WiFi access at the Powerhouse was one issue cited.
- Abandonment of the Route 66 Walk of Fame.
- Representation at the Albuquerque conference for the Route 66 The Road Ahead Partnership
- Continuance and expansion of the Best of the West Festival
- Representation at the Birthplace of Route 66 Festival, estimated attendance 30,000 people.
- Expansion of the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum
To balance this we need to also consider accomplishments.
- Public art and historic sign renovation resultant of a partnership between property owners, Route 66 Association of Kingman, Legacy Signs, and City of Kingman that is generating international media attention as well as becoming photo stops for travelrs.
- Receptions for visiting tours resultant of a partnership between Route 66 Cruizers, Promote Kingman, business owners, and Route 66 Association of Kingman that is generating return visits.
- Expansion of the Promote Kingman initiative with the launch of Promote Route 66.
- Launch of a weekly community events Facebook live program.
- A weekly program about Kingman events on Cameron Broadcasting.
- Launch of a weekly Facebook live program about Kingman developments and personalities (average reach now exceeds 4,000 people).
- New businesses, renovated buildings, art galleries opening in the historic business district and along the Route 66 corridor.
- Arrangements facilitated for Australian based Route 66 Tours to include Grand Canyon Caverns as a regular stop.
- Promotional partnerships with Route 66 Cruizers, Promote Kingman, and other organizations to expand the scope of Chillin’ on Beale and its marketing.
- Episode one of the video series developed by Promote Kingman that presents Kingman as the crossroads of the past and future is now being sold at gift shops and museums from Burbank, California to Tucumcari, New Mexico.
These are but a few of our accomplishments, our shortcomings, and our opportunities. So this takes us to questions.
How do we generate awareness of our assets and their potential? How do we, as a community, translate apathy into enthusiasm? How do we ensure that assets are capitalized on? How do we as a community overcome entrenched factions? What can we do to ensure that Kingman is a place people want to visit, and for more than just an evening? How do we transform Kingman from the land of lamented lost opportunity into the land of opportunity?
In closing, I would be remiss if it were not noted that on August 21, 5:30 PM at Calico’s restaurant, I will be speaking on heritage tourism and economic development. This will be at the meeting for the Kingman Progressive Alliance for Positive Change.