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Tourism growing in Chase County PDF Print E-mail
By Carolyn Lee
The Imperial Republican

    A new study completed for the Nebraska Department of Economic Development’s Travel and Tourism Division indicates that travel and tourism has contributed meaningfully to the economies of all the state’s 93 counties.
    Dean Runyan Associates conducted the study that breaks down the economic effects of the travel industry, county by county.
    Chase County has seen a definite increase in visitor spending and industry earning over the past five years.
    In 2003 a total of $3,600,000 was spent by visitors in the county. A visitor is defined as “persons traveling from their home origins to over 50 miles away or on overnight stops,” according to Tom Doering of the Department of Economic Development.
    That figure was $5,734,000 toward the end of 2008.
    Similarly, in 2003 income gained by businesses through visitors was $775,000, while it was $910,000 in 2008.
    However, in 2003 there were 90 people in Chase County whose jobs were related to tourism, while there are now 80 people. That is 3.1 percent of the total job force of 2,710, according to the study.
    Those 80 people earn 1.2 percent of the county’s total earnings, the study noted.
    Tourism accounted for $27,000 in local taxes and $371,000 in state taxes for 2008. That’s up from $23,000 in local taxes and $277,000 in state taxes in 2003.
    Omaha and Douglas County have the largest share of the travel industry of any county in the state. But as a percent of the total local economy, the industry especially stands out in Nebraska’s rural areas.
    Doering said tourism “impacts are widespread geographically in the state. It is the second kind of industry in  predominately agricultural counties.”
    For example, in Mullen and Hooker County, it accounts for 17.5 percent of all earnings. In Thedford and Thomas County, it generates 30.8 percent of all taxable sales, and in Ogallala and Keith County, one of every 13 jobs is in the travel industry.
    Although the figures have been positive through 2008, Doering said
    “We’re having a tough 2009 thus far.” Spending and earning numbers are down from this time last year, mostly due to the recession, Doering stated.
    Tourist attractions in Chase County, according to Chase County Tourism Coordinator Claudette Swanson, include the following:
    Champion Mill and Pond; Chase County Museum; Enders Reservoir; the historic Balcony House; Champion Community Center; Wauneta Roller Mill; Chateau Theater; The Imperial Theatre; Little Grand Canyon scenic overlook; Open Country Adventures and Kripple Duck Adventures guided hunts; Imperial Country Club, Enders Lake Golf Course, and the hunting, fishing and camping in the area.
    “And, the nice people in Chase County,” Swanson concluded.