WCU study highlights the benefit of cycling

By Cecil "Zeke" Yount | Oct 28, 2013

Dr. Steve Morse, of the Western Carolina University College of Business, spoke to the Waynesville Rotary Club at their October 18th meeting and shared with them the results of a recent economics study completed by his students. His report underscored what many people already know and that is that tourism is a major contributor to the well-being of Haywood County and our citizens. What you say, does this have to do with a column dedicated to cycling?

Well, the connection is clean and simple. Cyclists are tourists and they are coming to our area in increasing numbers to ride our roads and spend their money. Nationwide cycling is booming! While much attention has been publicized about the increase in urban cycling, a casual reader can now find much more information on the impact of cycling on rural communities. One needs look no further than the State of Oregon where cyclists contribute $400 million dollars per year to the state economy. (Source: bikeportland.org)

Events such as the Blue Ridge Breakaway, the recently released brochure of destination rides in Haywood, and infrastructure support such as the new road sharing symbols in Waynesville from Commerce Street to Hazelwood are great first steps as Haywood County becomes more bike friendly. These efforts help to round out the overall economic draw of many kinds of tourists to Haywood County.

In the past, I’ve semi-jokingly suggested that Haywood residents unhappy with seeing an increasing number of cyclists on the road should pretend they are seeing dollar signs instead of cyclists. Thanks to Dr. Morses’s study, I can now put a value on those dollar signs. Tourists coming to Haywood County state and local tax relief for each of the 35,361 households to the tune of $320.00 per year.

Unrelated to cycling, Dr. Morse indicated that from 2005 to 2012, Haywood County manufacturing had actually increased from 17.1% of total jobs to 18.1%. This is remarkable considering the economic downturn that occurred during this time span. Many congratulations are due to Mark Clasby, Economic Director for Haywood County, and to others who have fought to keep and bring manufacturing to Haywood!

The opportunities are out there to keep Haywood Healthy – not just physically but also economically. The question is whether we have the political and economic will to pursue the opportunities before they go elsewhere. The Comprehensive Haywood County Bicycle Plan provides the blue print for becoming Bicycle Friendly. Will small businesses in Haywood step up to join Bethel Grocery Store and Sorrell’s Café on the journey?

For more information on the WCU Economic study, contact Dr. Steve Morse: scmorse@wcu.edu.

For assistance in becoming a Bike Friendly business, contact BicycleHaywoodNC.

For more information, visit http://gr8smokieszeke.blogspot.com and www.bicyclehaywoodnc.org . You may also link to Zeke’s Great Smoky Mountain 2 Wheeled Adventures under Opinion on the Mountaineer’s website.