Harsh realities and hard truths are never easy to talk

about. Folks have a tendency to take constructive criticism personally, and people get offended. Self Serving factions will strive to present themselves as the one with the solution even though they haven’t addressed problems in years. Even worse, they are often at the root of the problem itself. Still, as uncomfortable as it may be, there is only one way for a community to move forward; address hard truths and harsh realities, tear down barriers and obstructions, and build on the ruins while being mindful of missed opportunities, past mistakes, and failed initiatives.

Let’s begin the discussion with some information. We will start with tourism. After all not all economic development is tourism but all tourism is economic development. This is evidenced by the recent study commissioned by the city which noted that approximately 60% of sales tax is paid by visitors to Kingman.

Did you know that Carmela at Siren’s recently hosted an after hours dinner for journalists from South African based Destination magazine? Did you know that Mark Fletcher, a syndicated Australian television personality recently, and his group, toured Kingman a few weeks ago? Did you know that Baroque Productions recently filmed an episode of a Route 66 documentary for the French Canadian History Channel in Kingman? Did you know that a Czech documentary on bicycling Route 66 contains scenes filmed in Kingman? Did you know that Men’s Fitness recently published an article about testing the new Jeep on Route 66 through Oatman? 

Did you know that Kingman is home to the world’s only electric vehicle museum or that the Route 66 Cruizers and Promote Kingman are assisting the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation with their raffle to raise funds for that museum? Did you know that an internationally acclaimed Dutch artist bequeathed two of his highly sought after dioramas to Kingman area organizations? Did you know that the new Caverns Grotto lunchroom in Grand Canyon Caverns was featured in Smithsonian? 

Did you know that the Route 66 Walk of Fame, now an abandoned project, was included in a Czech television documentary, was featured on an Australian tour company website, and was a destination for tour groups? Did you know that the chairman of the Route 66 International Advisory Group offered to assist in its development and launch an international fund raising initiative? Did you know that the recent video about Kingman being the crossroads of the past and future developed by Promote Kingman was to be shown at the recent Birthplace of Route 66 Festival (confirmed attendance in excess of 32,000 people) but the invitation was declined due to a lack of funds? Did you know that Kingman has a similar opportunity this October at the prestigious Miles of Possibilities Conference?

Now, to close this out, let’s look directly at economic development opportunities by focusing on just one community, Cuba, Missouri, population just under 3,400 people, as a comparative study. As you contemplate our tourism and economic development potential, as you give thought to discussions about our industrial park and airport and the success in Cuba, ask yourself, where do we go from here.

  • Dr. Sean Siebert on the board for the Crawford County Foundation says, “The biggest thing that we’ve been working to do is change the mindset. It’s getting people to think more optimistically about the future of their community. Cuba, population 3,356, is the biggest town in Crawford County. We now have a diverse manufacturing base, an aerospace company, wood-based products companies due to the abundant surrounding timber and a tourism industry centered around Route 66 and the town’s Route 66 murals. Agriculture also plays a big role, the cattle industry is key in Cuba. The first priority for rural communities is focusing on the health of existing businesses and how they can grow. We focus on good communication between the city and the economic development group and the businesses. I also work on a rehabilitation program with people in a local prison with the goal of economic development by helping people build a better life for those in the community, and we create programs to address drug addiction as well as poverty.”
  • Cuba, Missouri currently offers a comprehensive package of incentives to new and/or expanding businesses. There are three Industrial Parks: Cuba Industrial Park North, Cuba Industrial Park South, and Barnett Business and Technology Park.The Cuba Industrial Development Authority was organized in 1984 and has a five member board. The IDA issues tax exempt revenue bonds for construction of industrial facilities. The IDA also supports economic development projects within the city of Cuba under its microloan program.Cuba, Missouri partners with the Missouri University of Science and Technology.  Missouri S & T is located within 15 minutes of Cuba, Missouri and works to support development and commercialization programs for local businesses.  This global leader in Science and Technology research and education boasts the number one career opportunities office in the Midwest, and it’s in the top 4 in the nation.  In addition to Missouri S & T, East Central Community College offers job training and orientation programs for local businesses. Metro Business College, Columbia College, Drury University, and Webster University all offer courses within 15 minutes of Cuba, Missouri.Juniors and seniors in high school can work for employers for credit, working toward job opportunities after high school or college. The community also held a summit for area high school students that was a TED talk merged with a career fair. Siebert says they work to get local CEOs and company presidents as speakers.Cuba has a diverse manufacturing base including an aerospace company, wood-based products company, national medical billing company and a thriving tourism industry centered around Route 66, and area attractions.
  • Jane Reed, “The Route 66 sparked revival kicked-off with the non-profit Viva Cuba’s outdoor mural project along the Route 66 Corridor in 2001. Viva Cuba adopted the goal of 12 outdoor murals by 2007, Cuba’s sesquicentennial. This project brought about many other projects to fruition, including a Tourism Tax to help promote Cuba and establish a Visitor’s Center. The following events and attractions have drawn many to Cuba’s “Six Miles on Route 66.”
  • Viva Cuba involves Cuba’s young people-4th graders study the Route 66/Mural Curriculum and then receive a spring narrated Mural Tour of Route 66 and the Mural District/8th Graders take a narrated walking tour of the Route 66 historic district and then visit the History Museum *Stable Businesses along the Route 66 Corridor provide dining, retail, and specialty shops that appeal to tourists. The historic district along Route 66 is a popular business site for business owners and also has some historic homes. Independent restaurants recently opened along the Route 66 corridor draw local diners and travelers: MO Hick’s BBQ, East Office Bar & Grill, Shelly’s Route 66 Diner, Nana’s 12 Restaurant, the 4-Way Restaurant, Little Jack Horner’s Desserts, Frisco’s Grill & Pub, Riviera Maya’s Mexican Restaurant, Cuba Bakery & Deli, and the Route 66 Fudge & Flowers
  • Creating the Viva Cuba murals, business murals and small pocket projects along 66*Providing Viva Cuba step-on-guides for the large tour coaches that visit Cuba’s Route 66 attractions*Restoration of the 1930s Phillips 66 Cottage Style Station–now a restaurant*Rehabilitation of a 1930 gas station as Spirals Art Gallery*Re-landscaping of the Viva Cuba Garden at the intersection of Route 66 and Hwy 19, which involved plantings, seating, and building a brick wall and replica of a historic Cuba train*Painting historic scenes on the Traffic Control Boxes adjacent to the VC Garden*Restoration of the 1930s Wagon Wheel Motel starting in 2009*Erection in 2008 of the World’s Largest Route 66 Rocking Chair at the Outpost US66 StoreThe Rocker has now seceded this designation to Casey, Illinois, but the rocker has recently been painted red and is now the Route 66 Red Rocker. *Adopt-A-Street/Adopt-A-Highway Program along the Route 66 Corridor*Opening the Route 66 Room at the Crawford County Museum in Cuba*Route 66 Cuba Fest the 3rd Weekend of October/Narrated Trolley Tours of the Mural District *Cuba, MO Route 66 Products-Print/Post Cards, Mural City Candy Bar, Route 66 Mural City