A recent news release caught my eye. The headline read, “Tourism officials tout revenue generated by travel." (Effingham Daily News, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, Page A3.) City Tourism Director Jodi Thoele was quoted, "Effingham looks forward to attracting visitors as we continue to work hard to develop the region as a tourist destination."
Thoele elaborated, "We're happy to see our tourism numbers continue to trend upward. Effingham tourism continues to thrive for many reasons, but one main reason is due to our dedicated hospitality partners here in Effingham, including our hotels, restaurants, attractions and the people behind them. We also have enthusiastic meeting planners, festival/event coordinators and sports event coordinators bringing in fantastic events each year, which help to highlight our city and bring in new visitors. It's rewarding to see everyone's dedication and hard work pay off."
In reading the article, I certainly note that everything Director Thoele stated is correct. The folks who visit Effingham certainly do recognize all the great attractions we have as well as the wonderful people who work hard to make the town a welcoming place.
But I couldn’t help but notice a key element that seems missing in the success story. How did those visitors get here? More often than not, it was on the interstate highway system.
Many towns in southern Illinois have “dedicated hospitality partners” and “fantastic events” but they probably don’t generate the numbers Effingham does because they are not located on a heavily travelled interstate.
Please know that I’m not making this point to be critical of Director Thoele. From all I’ve heard and observed, she does a fine job. But I think being located at the crossroads of two busy interstates is something our area has come to take for granted and I would argue that the omission jades our thinking in regards to the role that taxes and government play in the Effingham success story.
All of this brings to mind a story my dad used to tell. In 1967 he took the plunge to buy his own business, a gas station at what was to become the middle Effingham exit on the interstate. At that point in time the interstate wasn’t yet complete. Sections of it were being built across the country and every so many months some sections were finished and joined together. When they linked up my dad would notice an increase in traffic and consequently more business.
Even as a youngster back in the 1970s when I first heard this story I made the connection between business and government. I understood the role that government played for the greater good of society.
Lately it seems fashionable in our local area to be critical of government. Given that it’s a free country, folks are welcome to whatever view they choose. But it seems to me that remembering the history of the vision folks had for how government should serve as a benefit to society is a key part of our story and shouldn’t be forgotten.