Does a rising tide really raise all boats?

In his 32 plus years in Branson, it has been the Ole Seagull’s experience that those espousing the “rising tide theory” regarding economic development, are generally those either feeding at the government trough or wanting government assistance for some glorious projects that, for one reason or another, they are incapable of doing on their own.

It has also been his experience that, by and large, those who have done the most, economically and otherwise, for our community have been those where the “developer,” invested their own money, time, sweat, blood, and effort without feeding at the government trough.

Some that come readily to mind are Silver Dollar City, Shepherd of the Hills, Presleys, Dick’s 5 & 10, Chateau on the Lake, Meyers Hotels, Combs Hotels, Dolly Parton’s Stampede, Sight and Sound Theatre, Clay Cooper, Duttons, Hughes Brothers, Shoji Tabuchi, Grand Country Complex, Big Foot, Welk Resorts, Castle Rock, Family Fun Parks, Runaway Mountain Coaster, Branson Coaster, Branson Zip Line Tours, Adventure Zip Lines, and dozens of others. An Ole Seagull just has to believe that they knew there would be competition, but believed that it would be the fair competition of the market place, unsubsidized by selective government interference and funding.

An Ole Seagull could go on and on, but would like to share one of the emails he got this week. It’s from David Faria, the owner of Musicland Kampground. It eloquently expresses the thoughts of many he received during the week about the “unfairness” of the proposed project:

“… I was at the meeting last week and one of their justifications for the funding was that their business would create a rising tide where their competitors would also benefit. I disagree with this ‘rising tide’ theory in this particular instance.

“It may be true when it comes to retail that all ships rise with the tide. If John Doe and family come to Branson for a few days, they may buy a coat at one store, a few pairs of shoes at other stores, shirts at another store… during their visit. All the retail stores benefit with the ‘rising tide’ or ‘mall’ concept. But when it comes to lodging, they are only going to stay at ONE place during their entire stay. There is only one benefactor. The ‘rising tide’ does not work when it comes to the lodging business!

“Sheila Wyatt expressed her concern of cannibalism and specifically brought up the zipline business. David Cushman stood up and said that they too would benefit from this ‘rising tide’. As if people would actually want to visit multiple zip line attractions on their trip, or multiple water parks. It’s really disingenuous of them to make these kinds of claims.

“Also, they contradicted their own estimation of 600,000 new visitors with their guest from the U.K., who said their estimation was 330,000 and optimistically 400,000. So where are their numbers coming from? And all this is based on the economy continuing this upward trajectory without consideration for any downturns in the next 20 years. With those numbers, they claim that their lodging capacity will only be 200,000 (in Phase 1), so their claim is they’re going to be bringing in 400,000 new lodging visitors that they can’t handle. I don’t believe that for one second. If they do end up bringing over 200k visitors solely on their own merits (which I think is extremely optimistic), what would stop them from expanding their own lodging to meet the demand? Again, they are being disingenuous with the public and only saying what they think needs to be said to placate those that have concerns.

“They say they can’t move forward with this project without TIF funding. If they really can get 330 million in private funding, why don’t they just build the non-competing White Rapids park and National Geographic portion? 330 Million dollars is a well-funded project. One of the reasons they are seeking TIF funding is to help them actually get this private funding as they approach private investors with a sales pitch that the project is already 25% funded.

“A privately funded non-competing park is a great idea. A publicly subsidized lodging resort is unfair and a bad idea….”

Thank you Mr. Faria, not only for your words of wisdom and the manner in which you expressed them, but most of all, for having the courage and guts to stand up and express them publicly.

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