The news this week that an organized, professional approach toward finding a developer willing to construct a hotel in or near Shamokin is an encouraging step for local economic development.
Those involved — the Susquehanna River Valley Visitors Bureau, the Northumberland County Industrial Development Corp. (NCIDC) and the newly formed Shamokin Area Businesses for Economic Revitalization — represent a unique mix of agencies with the right connections to make the effort effective. Their plan picks up where a number of other efforts have tailed off — plus the new group has $20,000 to put toward a feasibility study.
A 50-room hotel won’t be the cure-all for the local economy, but it would improve it, while also helping solidify the future for the Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, and aid in the further development of Knoebels Amusement Resort and other local, if smaller, attractions.
Even the bed and breakfasts that have popped up since the AOAA’s birth about five years ago — facilities that shouldn’t be forgotten in the effort to promote local lodging — would benefit if there is a larger pool of available rooms that provide a reason for more people to come to the area.
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A hotel probably wouldn’t be a large employer or one paying high wages. But it obviously would create new jobs, including those, while temporary, during construction.
Also, it’s possible a hotel would be located where today’s there a vacant lot or a blighted building, improving those sites. There would likely, then, be a gain in real estate taxes on the property, plus taxes on sales, income and payroll. The hotel would need food, utilities, insurance, furnishings and other goods and services. It all adds up.
Not only would a new hotel provide lodging for local tourist attractions, but it might also keep people closer when they come to town for events such as the state playoff football games often hosted at Shamokin Area’s well-regarded Kemp Memorial Stadium. Speaking of Shamokin Area, we’re told it could be a stronger contender to host PIAA district and regional wrestling championships if there was local lodging for the multiple-day events.
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A feasibility study and wishful thinking aren’t enough to produce a new local hotel, and solving the often-cited drawback of the winter-season lull will be the challenge.
What’s most encouraging, however, is that when this effort is complete, we’ll either know that investors simply didn’t find it worthy, or, we’ll have a new hotel.