Friday, May 3, 2013

Maybe Wisconsin's natural beauty matters

I'm not in the mood to go in-depth on WEDC failures or job reports today, so instead I'll forward you to another interesting report I saw released today.

It was the Wisconsin Department of Tourism's annual report on the economic impact of tourism on Wisconsin's economy in 2012.

And here are a few interesting takeaways from this very thorough report. We'll start with the places in Wisconsin that draw the most tourism dollars, and the places that saw the biggest jumps in tourism dollars for 2012.

Tourism-related spending, Wisconsin Counties ($16.8 billion total)
Milwaukee Co. $2.898 billion
Dane County $1.694 billion
Waukesha Co. $1.160 billion
Sauk County $1.090 billion (Dells)
Brown County $907 million (Go Pack Go!)
Walworth Co. $605 million

Biggest increases in tourism-related spending, 2012
Rusk County 14.0%
Iron County 13.1%
Walworth Co. 10.4%
Pierce County 10.1%
Vilas County 9.9%
Washburn Co. 8.6%
St. Croix Co. 8.4%

Interesting cross-section, isn't it? The big cities of Madison and Milwaukee draw the most tourism dollars, along with the Dells area, but the places that had the biggest increases were either way up North (Iron and Vilas County), or places that draw a lot of their tourism from Chicago and the Twin Cities. Rusk County's numbers are skewed a bit by being low (they only had $35.5 million in tourism-related spending), but even the folks in Ladysmith benefit from being relatively close to Minnesota and the great scenery that is Wisconsin north of Highway 10.

What these numbers tell me is that Wisconsin has a clear advantage with its natural beauty, and it also draws plenty of people and dollars in from out of town for its largest cities.

It's also interesting to see in what areas people spend their tourism dollars in Wisconsin

Sources of tourism spending, Wisconsin 2012
Lodging $2.7 billion (26%)
Food + Beverage $2.6 billion (25%)
Retail $2.2 billion (21%)
Recreation $1.3 billion (13%)
Non-air transport. $1.2 billion (11%)
Air transport. $0.4 billion (4%)

In particular, 92% of the state's lodging industry is based on tourism, as is 35% of the state's recreation dollars, and 22% of the state's dollars for food and beverages. That's a whole lotta jobs dependent on tourism in Wisconsin. So with that in mind, here's my question.

Why would our state try to tear down one of our best economic advantages by putting in an open-pit mine in Iron County that would tear up the great landscape and open spaces that attract many people from out of town? Likewise, why would you mess up the services and vibrancy of the state's two biggest cities with punitive shared revenue limitations and the defunding of public schools. In addition, why would you restrict these communities in Milwaukee and Madison from throwing higher sales taxes onto the FIBs and others that come in from out of town, and instead force these places to dump off all of the extra needs and services that result from the extra tourism onto the locals?

Interesting question, isn't it? Proves yet again that the WisGOPs in power really don't understand what makes Wisconsin unique, what separates its economy from that of non-scenic Confederate states, and why it's a great place to live in. And as a result, these people are putting in policies that make Wisconsin just another state in flyover country, and a mediocre place to live in. Which is yet another reason these guys have to go.

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