BY BRANDY TEMPLETON
The Statesville Convention & Visitors Bureau hosted the second annual Celebrate Statesville Tourism Summit on Wednesday. The event highlighted the impact of tourism on the local economy and its role in economic development.
Held at the Statesville Civic Center, the summit attracted dozens of civic leaders and tourism industry professionals. The event also featured a destination showcase and awards presentation.
“Tourism is truly the fertilizer of economic development,” said Cindy Sutton, executive director of the SCVB and host of the summit.
Statesville Mayor Costi Kutteh introduced keynote speaker was Christopher Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina (EDPNC). Chung, he said, is a “nationally known visionary” who has brought $63 billion worth of investment and 116,000 new jobs to the state.
“He’s what Mandy Cohen was to us during the pandemic,” the mayor said.
A nonprofit public-private partnership, the EDPNC operates under contract with the N.C. Department of Commerce, while receiving additional financial support from the private sector. The organization focuses on five areas to promote revenue for North Carolina, including tourism, recruiting companies from out of state, working with company employers, international trade assistance, and small business start-up counseling.
“We’re in competition with other counties and other states,” Chung explained. “During 2022, we eclipsed over $33 billion from our tourism. That’s a high-water mark.”
Noting the “halo effect,” he said that positive tourism experiences can potentially lead to outside businesses relocating to Statesville. Restaurants, hotels, and places within walking distance all play a role in business recruitment, he said.
“There’s intangibles, things in our minds, that go beyond the travelism economy— perception can have really important effects that go beyond,” Chung said. “We all have our lists of what we’re looking for — whether it’s good schools, a walkable neighborhood, or the housing market.
A 2023 survey showed the top things businesses consider when relocating are labor costs, quality of life, the availability of skilled workers, and energy costs.
“These are what executives are taking into account when thinking of where to expand or relocate,” Chung said. “Their choices are also shaped by perception and experiences that make a connection to different locations.”
Marlise Taylor, director of tourism research for Visit NC, shared that North Carolina was the sixth most visited state in the country in 2022.
“Tennessee ranked No. 5, making this state an important competition,” she said. “We hit record levels in spending, tax revenue, tourism payrolls. Employment was the only thing we fell behind in — we still haven’t gotten back to the pre-pandemic.”
Ten awards were presented to businesses and individuals for their efforts to promote Statesville’s tourism and growth.
♦ Hotel of the Year: Hilton Garden Inn
♦ Event of Year: NC Main Street Conference
♦ Attraction of the Year: Southern Distilling Company
♦ Lifetime Achievement Award: Von Patel
♦ Visionary Award: Wesley Davidson
♦ Unsung Hero: Patricia Everett
♦ Outstanding Ambassador: Kristie Darling
♦ Housekeeper of the Year: Rosalia Osuna
♦ Hospitality Professional of the Year: Shannon Stewart -Hill
♦ Collaborative Leaders of the Year: Donna Carpenter & Jessica Roberts