An 8 percent increase in revenues from one year to the next would be a good sign for any business. But when that figure represents the amount of hotel/motel taxes collected by McDuffie County, officials said it was an outstanding sign.
In 2003, the county collected $156,284.37 from people staying overnight in McDuffie hotels. Last year's numbers rose to $169,334.24, an increase of $13,049.87 that has tourism advocates ecstatic about the possibilities McDuffie County holds.
"I almost see it as a necessity," said Hazel Mobley, outgoing tourism board chair. "McDuffie County is on the brink of new growth."
Money collected from the hotel/motel tax funds the McDuffie County Tourism Department. Mrs. Mobley said the new monies will probably go back into attracting even more events inside McDuffie County for 2005.
She and others said the number of events in the county during 2004 helped spur the increase in revenue. Multiple tournaments at Sweetwater Park, fishing tournaments, horse events at Pine Top Farm, the Bike Ride Across Georgia and even motocross events at Aonia Pass in Wilkes County brought more people into McDuffie hotels this past year.
"When little leagues come here, moms and pops come, grandpas, grandmothers come. We fill beds. We fill restaurants. We put money in McDuffie," Mrs. Mobley said. "It helps everyone here in McDuffie County to bring any event here."
And to make matters even better, the increase in tax revenue was something no one in county government expected.
"Everybody had been looking for a decrease in hotel/motel tax and also sales tax because of the economy and everything, but it hadn't affected McDuffie County like it has some counties," said County Finance Officer Jimmy Whitaker.
The increased number of events and the growing economy in McDuffie, have those in charge excited about what the future may hold. But business leaders are quick to pat the back of the government for the good economic times.
"The general leadership of Thomson-McDuffie County and the way the city government and county government work together is probably more responsible for how well the local economy has done than any other reason," said White Columns Owner Epp Wilson, who is also a tourism board member.
And to Mr. Wilson the growth rate in the county is just the right speed to move things forward without causing growing pains.
"The Thomson economy is sort of like the Little Engine that Could," he said. "It ain't winning the Kentucky Derby, but it just keeps percolating along. And we don't want to grow as fast as some of these other counties."