What's It Worth?
What’s it worth? The question gets asked on television shows that assess people’s antiques and collectibles. Insurance agents ask it when drawing up contracts to protect their clients’ property. You might ask yourself that question when trying to decide whether to toss or keep that old sofa from your very first apartment. No doubt, the monetary value of the sofa would be only a small part of that decision.
Across the nation, cities and townships along America’s Byways and the byway organizations themselves are looking at that very question of worth in terms of economic impact and economic significance of byways. Many byway leaders say that interest in the economic value of byway designation is their most frequently asked question when they speak to city councils, township boards and community groups.
There are currently 126 nationally designated byways in 44 states, and many more state designated routes in those same states as well as four additional states, plus the District of Columbia. It’s a big challenge to develop a way of measuring economic impact and/or significance that works for everyone when the diversity is so great.
There has already been some useful work done by some of our nation’s byways groups.
- The Blue Ridge Parkway, Virginia/North Carolina: Visitors spent $1.8 billion in counties adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, according to a 1995-96 study. These expenditures resulted in over $147 million in tax revenues and supported more than 74,614 jobs in the region.
- Vermont Scenic Byways: Travelers from out of state who drove Vermont Scenic Byways for the scenic drive or sightseeing spent 25% more per day than those traveling for other reasons.
- Colorado Scenic Byways: A survey of tourism-related businesses along two scenic byways in Colorado showed that a majority of business owners estimated a 10% increase in sales due to byway designation.
But, now the quest for the answer to, “What’s it worth?” has found its champion. The America’s Byways Resource Center, located in Duluth, MN, about a year ago selected a company called Yellow Wood Associates to help frame the research, gather the data and produce a viable economic impact/significance measurement tool that will focus on the investment in the corridor in combination with visitor spending. That tool, or collection of tools, should be available by late 2008.
Pilot tests of the draft tools are now underway on selected byways in Ohio and Kansas. These tests should be completed by June.
So, what about the emotional value…like that old first-apartment sofa? The subject was posed to America’s Byways Resource Center. “The focus so far is on dollars, not intangibles. Those are definitely benefits to note, but we’re not looking at ways to quantify them yet.”
Some information taken from America’s Byways Resource Center Tele-Workshop Fact Sheet, Oct. 16 and 17, 2007.