In a pandemic year, more important than ever. But in 2021, we’ve got tourism, too!
If there’s anything that St. Francisville residents understand, it’s the importance of supporting our neighbors. What we might not consider, though, is how much our community benefits when we choose to spend our dollars locally, too.
Here’s a statistic you may find surprising: last year, despite the economic upheaval created as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Feliciana's annual sales tax revenues actually increased, instead of decreasing.
According to Parish President Kenny Havard, during 2020 West Feliciana Parish actually saw sales tax revenues grow by 3% over 2019. And while Havard acknowledged that the 2020 figure was supported by the quarter-percent sales tax increase approved by voters in November, 2019, the fact that local revenues didn’t drop sharply as the pandemic ravaged large swathes of the Louisiana economy, points to the strong support local businesses received from their community.
During a time when most of us were sheltering at home, you might think that local sales taxes would plunge as people turned to online retail giants like Amazon, and the tourism industry stopped in its tracks. But remember, this is St. Francisville we’re talking about! Not even a modern-day plague could stop us from helping one another out in a time of need.
Local Spending Stays Local
Each time a dollar is spent locally, tax revenue from that purchase helps deliver the funds to build new infrastructure, make school improvements, and support police, fire, and healthcare services. Local examples include the dramatically expanded West Feliciana Hospital campus opened in 2017, and the new Bains Elementary School facility on track to open by fall of 2022.
Speaking of the hospital, in the parish’s Nov. 16, 2020 election voters approved a measure to renew an existing half-cent sales tax that helps to fund WFH, with some of those funds rededicated to repair local roads and bridges, too.
Tourism: A Dollar In Equals $7 Out
With West Feliciana’s sales tax receipts remaining strong during 2020, Havard is excited to see what the revival of West Feliciana’s tourism economy will add in 2021 and beyond. As visitors shop, dine, and stay in hotel rooms, sales tax receipts increase, providing additional revenue to be invested back into the community in ways that benefit visitors and residents alike.
“We know that for every dollar we put into tourism, we get seven dollars back out,” said Havard, citing economic impact figures provided by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office of Culture, Recreation, & Tourism.
As Havard spoke, the 190-passenger American Jazz cruise ship was moored at the newly installed Mississippi River boat ramp—a welcome sight after more than a year without cruise ship stopovers. With each cruise ship visit, Havard noted that the parish collects not only a lease fee for boat ramp usage, but also a $1 fee for each disembarking passenger. All of which is reinvested back into tourism.
“By 2022 we’re expecting three boats a day, three days a week, with between one hundred and three hundred passengers per landing,” he continued. Add this to the sales tax revenue those visiting passengers will generate and Havard sees lots of potential. “I can feel the static in the air,” he said. “This is our cottage industry and I see the value in it.”
St. Francisville Staying Strong
“When the shutdown started, there was no predicting how it would affect the future of our local economy,” said St. Francisville Mayor Bobee Leake. “But we created robust campaigns to encourage support of our family-owned businesses, places that have been here for generations. People showed up for one another, which is what we do best.”
At the onset of the pandemic, when many local businesses were temporarily shuttered, the St. Francisville Main Street Program created the “St. Francisville Strong” initiative as a way to encourage hometown pride amongst residents, and to provide them with a way to help support local businesses. The site functioned as a one-stop-shop where people could purchase gift certificates from local shops, to be used once they reopened. The site also sold merchandise, generating proceeds that went back to local businesses.
When Governor John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order was put into place, the West Feliciana Chamber of Commerce immediately added a Covid Updates addendum to their website, which remained up until businesses could safely re-open, said Chamber President Ranee Rogers Voorhies.
The page provided safety protocols for area businesses, and up-to-date information with revised hours of operation for those businesses able to remain open. It also listed local restaurants providing pickup and delivery services, and shared purchasing options describing which parish retailers were offering services like curbside pickup.
“The entire West Feliciana community truly rallied behind and stepped up to support our locally owned businesses during the pandemic,” said Rogers-Voorhies. “I’m so proud of how our local businesses adapted to not only survive this Covid pandemic, but to thrive!”
- To learn more about tourism’s economic impact in Louisiana, access the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation, & Tourism’s Tourism Research Archive HERE to view and download reports.
- To learn more about how Bank of St. Francisville can help your business benefit from tourism to West Feliciana, call 225-635-6397 or click here to schedule an appointment.
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