The original development plan for Hilton Head required two revenue streams for the island's economy -- tourism and upscale residential that served the retiree and second-home market. Despite the huge residential capital investment, the large residential real estate market, and the high level of spending of residents, the tourism industry has received far more attention than the needs of residents. That includes the high level of tourism promotion of the island for many years, largely due to the orientation of the Chamber of Commerce that derives much of its funding from the tourist-based accommodations tax.
The single most important recommendation of the town's arts consultant is creating a new revenue stream from the residents that would benefit their cultural life. This money would be separately allocated from the accommodations tax.
The recommendation to build and fund arts projects, including building a new arts center, is a good starting place for a long-range, 10- to 20-year cultural development program that would rely on the new revenue.
While we may not be Carmel with its 80,000 residents, we can be the best that we can be. We do have the advantage of a warm-water beach and a contiguous PGA Tour championship golf course. We are also fortunate to have professional theater and a symphony orchestra of remarkable quality, both with ticket revenue that covers operating costs -- but both with serious facility shortcomings. That is where I would start.
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I hope Town Council agrees. Only they can make it happen.
Don G. Kennedy
Hilton Head Island