OP ED Draft for David Tigges
A Penny Well Spent
Tourism and Hilton Head Island -- they are impossible to separate.
Just like in the ditty: “Love and marriage go together like a horse and
Truth is, the vast majority of those who now make Hilton Head their
permanent retirement home initially came here as visitors. The seasonal, ebb
and flow of tourist vacationers creates an economy that attracts and supports
the full range of commercial and professional services -- from retail shops to
restaurants to supermarkets, hair salons and medical facilities – all those
things that make this place full-time livable.
Those who come for a visit can see themselves transitioning from
Hilton Head Island as a vacation paradise into making it a part-time, then a
full-time, permanent hometown. That's our history.
Our island community’s development is not unique. Over the last 80 or
so years similar stories have occurred up and down the East Coast with a
particular spurt of development in each of the post war periods.
Today, however, if you travel down either of Florida’s coasts you'll
pass, one after another, the tired and worn remains of once "hot" resort
communities and/or beachfront developments. The "new" has worn off.
Their vitality has waned. What were once exciting "destinations" have aged
into day-trip and weekend wide-spots along roadways chock-a-block with
beach cottages, condos and strip plazas mostly filled with bargain-hunting
seasonal snow-birds and retirees.
Is that our Hilton Head Island future? Or can we keep the shine and
vigor of the unique vision that first attracted us, and the world, across our
In the promotion of an additional one-cent sales tax for tourist
marketing, the accounting types remind us that Hilton Head represents a
billion-dollars of tourist income; that the industry needs to be supported,
promoted and kept high on the wish list of vacationers seeking a high-
quality, natural but well maintained destination.
They remind us that each promotional dollar returns $53 in jobs and
entrepreneurial opportunity for thousands of our neighbors on and off the
Island. It is these dollars that underwrite the conveniences, the recreation and
the entertainment which we residents enjoy. Moreover, it is this promotional
effort that keeps our real estate market humming and our property values up.
For some reason, those who came up with the sales tax assessment idea
thought that local property-owners had to also be enticed with a property-tax
cut to approve the plan. But, if you simply consider what we have now and
what we want our island to continue to be 10, 20 or 30 years hence – if that
requires other penny on our non-essential purchases to keep the shine on our
hometown and our economic engine fueled, it is a penny well-spent.