Branson leaderes believe economc boom will continue

Monday, September 18, 2006

BRANSON, Mo. -- Development in tourist-driven Branson has topped the billion-dollar mark and community leaders say a recent boom could continue for at least another five years.

But the city's economic development director, Mike Rankin, said it isn't just the show palaces, restaurants and hotels that are helping to build the local economy.

The boom comes only five years after local officials announced the number of first-time visitors had dropped 16 percent and tourism experts noted that Branson's senior visitors were becoming too old to travel.

A renewed effort to bring in new, big-name entertainers took place. And the city has since added a $12 million recreation center and approved its first industrial park to spur more year-round employment. A record-setting 225 housing units were permitted in the city last year and more affordable housing projects are being developed.

But with such growth come concerns about infrastructure, Huffman said. The city must address road improvements and build highways to carry people into Branson.

Another concern is that the development will hurt Branson's natural appeal, said Jeff Justus, the owner of a local plumbing company. Justice had to move his downtown business to make room for Branson Landing.

But others, like Glenn Robinson, said there has never been a better time to be in Branson.

He had to enlarge the lobby at his Grand Country complex -- which includes a theater, shops, restaurants and indoor water park -- to accommodate the sudden influx of visitors the past few years.

"I've been here 34 years and I've never seen a gloomy, down year," he said. "It's a great, wonderful time to be in Branson."


Information from: Springfield News-Leader, http://www.news-leader.com

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