Branson Hits The Billion Dollar Construction Mark

Newspapers and television stations across the country will be retelling the story Branson's Public Relations machine unleashed today (this means lot's of traffic today).For the usual suspences reports are already in. Television stations from Arkansas to various parts of the midwest will tell you:

"Branson has hit the Billion Dollar in construction mark... and more good things to come"

The Springfield Newsleader retells the story the best expanding off the AP wire.

Kathryn Buckstaff SNL Version: (We cut out what we told you above and the usual Branson Landing rhetoric)

Recently, officials with the city and the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce got good news. Sales tax revenue is up 6.5 percent through June with tourism tax up 9.6 percent. The number of first-time visitors was up, and visitors were staying a day longer on average and spending more money.

Thanks to a new sales tax approved by voters for marketing, more visitors are coming from outside a 300-mile radius, chamber officials said. That sales tax is expected to amount to about $6 million annually, more than doubling the marketing budget.

How much is enough?

Branson's growth hasn't just favored tourists.

- The city added a $12 million recreation center. About 80 percent of children participating in programs come from outside city limits.

- Skaggs Community Health Center is adding new services, including a cancer center and a $5 million center for orthopedic and neurological care.

- A record-setting 225 housing units were permitted in the city in 2005, and several affordable housing projects are being developed.

- City officials recently approved Branson's first industrial park to spur more year-round employment.

Huffman said economics will dictate how long the boom will last.

"Banks will not loan money on these projects unless they are financially feasible, and they will do an enormous amount of due-diligence before they make those kinds of loans," Huffman said.

Huffman said his greatest concern is addressing highway issues to avoid traffic jams.

"I'm sure the city will (address those concerns) because they'll have the tax revenue to work with," Huffman said.

Several road improvements are already budgeted, including measures to ease congestion in downtown Branson.

Glenn Robinson and his wife, Venus, have owned the Grand Country complex since 1987. They have a theater, shops and restaurants, and in 2001, they built the $4 million Splash Country Indoors, an enclosed water park for their guests. The park drew so many new customers that they enlarged the hotel's lobby.

A recently announced indoor water park will be a good addition as long as it's safely operated, Glenn Robinson said.

"I've been here 34 years, and I've never seen a gloomy, down year," he said. "It's a great, wonderful time to be in Branson."

However, Robinson said more customers are essential.

"Our goal is to get another 2 million people in here and pretty fast," Robinson said. "The question is, 'Can we take the additional marketing dollars and spend them wisely?' "

New products bring new customers, but "a lot of businesses can fail during a growth cycle. It's usually the small volume person who fails first é or a large business that was marginal in quality, service and price can topple."

Lost in the woods

Development has not yet hurt Branson's natural appeal, said Jeff Justus, owner of L&J Plumbing. Justus had to relocate his downtown lakefront business when the city bought it to make way for Branson Landing.

Justus supports a trail network being constructed by the city of Branson and communities along the loop that winds into Stone County.

People should remain conscious of preservation, "but there's a good possibility there are more trees in Taney County now than when they came through in the early 1900s and clear-cut everything," Justus said. "I tell people they need to come down and walk Henning (Conservation Area) or Lakeside (Forest Wilderness Area) or some of the trails the city is working on. You can get lost in the woods at all these places."