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Opinion

June 13, 2012

Bring on all visitors

In recent years, small towns across America have been looking to one area to provide a boost to their economies: tourism.

Greenville is no exception. The Chamber of Commerce has been doing a good job bringing the occasional busload of tourists to Greenville and promoting our biggest attractions, such as the Audie Murphy/American Cotton Museum and our downtown wineries.

Now, the cynical among us may ask why anybody would take the time and trouble to make a special trip to Greenville. We’re not that different from many small towns in Texas — with farming roots, a charming and largely original downtown district, and cute Victorian and craftsman-style houses sprinkled throughout the community — which is something shared by many similar cities throughout this part of America.

Plus, with the shimmering lights of Dallas just a few miles down the road, it might be easy for Greenville to get outshined.

But we think that’s the wrong way to see it.

Tourism has huge potential in Greenville, but only if we can project the reality of Greenville to the outside world. And where that reality has legitimate problems, we’ve got to fix them.

Just one example: Our downtown area has seen a big uptick recently, but if we’re honest with ourselves — and see Greenville as outsiders might see it — we’ll realize that downtown still has a long way to go before it can reach its potential as an attraction for both visitors and our own local residents. There are too many vacant and neglected buildings here. Until we fix that, no amount of slick marketing can make people ignore the flaws in Greenville. The marketing has to match the reality to be effective over the long haul.

And we think, with some planning, cooperation and a modest investment, all of downtown Greenville could look like it belongs in a travel brochure. That would be a great thing for everybody involved, from our local business owners to shoppers and outsiders.

If we really want to make tourism a bigger part of our local economy then we’ve got to not only promote our city to tourists, but also make it a better place to visit in the first place. We need more attractions, better maintained buildings and a business-friendly climate that will allow tourism-related companies to thrive here.

We hope the city’s new leaders will take creative and cost-effective steps that turn Greenville into a true destination city over time. When people in Dallas want to escape from their cramped spaces and big-city headaches, Greenville should be the first place they think about. Our closeness to Dallas really is an asset if we think of it that way.

We love how the Chamber of Commerce is promoting our city to outsiders, and we see it as a first step toward transforming Greenville into the attraction it could be — for both tourists and local residents alike.

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