Rowan’s tourism in top tier for growth in 2014
Tourism is a steadily growing industry in Rowan County, according to state statistics released this week.
Rowan County’s tourism industry in 2014 grew at a rate that placed it in the top tier of North Carolina’s 100 counties, according to the report. Rowan’s growth rate was 5.8 percent in 2014, placing it 17th of North Carolina’s 100 counties. The total number of dollars spent in Rowan for tourist activities was $153.83 million, making the county 29 of 100 in that ranking.
When determining the growth rate, the state compared tourism expenditures in 2014 to 2013. The state includes food, retail, lodging, transportation and various forms of entertainment expenditures as part of county-level expenditures. The state uses the term “visitor spending” to describe the same figures. As a result, some of the growth and expenditures could be a result of shoppers driving to Rowan.
The statistics are the latest in a series of positive years for Rowan. Since the economic recession in 2008, the tourism industry in Rowan has grown by 32 percent.
“We are growing at a faster rate than the state average, and the other thing that’s important to look at is we’ve been growing at a very healthy pace,” said Salisbury-Rowan Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO James Meacham.
Three nearby counties also placed in the top 20 for growth in 2014. Cabarrus ranked second for growth, Iredell ranked ninth and Mecklenburg ranked 15th. In total dollars spent in 2014, Mecklenburg ranked first in the state, Cabarrus ranked 12th and Iredell ranked 18th.
Meacham said many of the areas ranking above Rowan for growth are communities whose economies are driven by tourism, such as Buncombe, New Hanover, Brunswick and Henderson counties. Major metropolitan areas — Wake, Guilford, Mecklenburg and Durham counties – also placed above Rowan in total expenditures.
“Being in that top third is great,” Mecham said. “We are with the communities that are pure destination tourism areas and some metropolitan counties.”
He said being on Interstate 85 and having unique attractions are major parts of Rowan’s tourism economy.
Often in economic matters, county leaders compare Rowan its southern neighbor, Cabarrus County. Meacham said Cabarrus may no longer be a close comparison.
“Cabarrus is just so much larger now,” he said. “Concord almost has 100,000 people. It’s not apples to apples anymore.”
He mentioned Charlotte Motor Speedway and Concord Mills as major drivers of Cabarrus County’s economy.
The state statistics also show an overall growth in North Carolina’s tourism industry. Domestic visitors spent a record $21.3 billion statewide in 2014, an increase of 5.5 percent from the previous year.
“Tourism is a major force in North Carolina’s economic development,” said Gov. Pat McCrory about the overall growth of tourism in the state. “The industry is fueling a continued growth in jobs and contributing substantial sums to the state budget and local economies in every corner of our great state.”
Only three counties saw a decrease in visitor spending in 2014. Davie County was one of the three.
Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246