Let’s make Brookhaven a ‘destination city’

Published 9:24pm Saturday, February 22, 2014

You have to start somewhere.

You have heard that quote many times from many people. One or both of my parents used that on me as a school kid and as an adult. Many school teachers admonished me that if I did not get started, the window of opportunity was going to close. I’m sure the same is true for you.

Identifying that “Start Somewhere” idea is where I see Brookhaven and Lincoln County today.

Over the past several weeks, I have driven to Jackson, had lunch in Brookhaven and had phone conversations with many community-minded folks that can make things happen but want to know where to start. They point to evidence of successful past efforts and are serious about building on those accomplishments. They have the desire to make our community more attractive to newcomers and bring home those that may have moved away.

There is plenty of evidence that those who came before us saw the need to improve on what was here.

The Whitworth College property is a visible example. As I understand, this gem, in downtown Brookhaven, was about to collapse around its foundation. Someone recognized the value of that campus and issued the challenge to “Get Started.” Today we are all beneficiaries of that effort.

Here’s a challenge to Brookhaven. Let’s make Brookhaven a “Destination city.” To do so will require us to pick a starting point. I think the task of identifying projects and plans has already been offered. Someone needs to issue the “Get Started” order.

Dustin Walker and his Baseball Facility Concept Marketing Team went before the county board of supervisors recently to propose a new youth baseball facility. If you know anything about youth baseball, you know folks will travel hundreds of miles every weekend with their children to play in tournaments. They spend lots of dollars on hotel rooms, food, gasoline, shopping and, yes, sales taxes.

If you want to see just how big youth baseball and youth sports can become, visit this web site: www.lakepointsports.com. Headed by retired Atlanta Braves GM Bobby Cox and others, the group bought more than 1,300 acres along I-75 north of Atlanta in little Emerson, Ga. They plan to build Premier Sports Vacation Destination. Over several years, the complex will grow to employ more than 3,000 employees.

Someone, probably Bobby Cox, issued the command to “Start Somewhere,” and they did.

We have a couple of comments on The Daily Leader Facebook page saying we should pave roads and streets before building baseball fields. I agree with the commenters that resurfacing is important and not just road and streets but in parking lots of private businesses. If someone issued the “Get Started” command today, maybe the sales and sales taxes that baseball could generate might help pay those resurfacing costs.

Brookhaven loves history. It is no where more visible than in the downtown area where the renovation projects that Johnny Lynch, Bill Sones and others started continue today. There are now more than 65 residences in the upstairs of buildings more than 100 years old. History is important to a community and interesting enough that tour groups spend lots of money visiting.

I don’t know that the city board of aldermen were thinking of this idea of a “Destination City” when they moved to present a petition to the state legislature seeking a 3 percent tourism tax on overnight stays, but if this tax is approved by the voters and used to market Brookhaven and Lincoln County as a city with lots of history and youth sports opportunities, we may have just “Started Somewhere.”

The foundation has been laid for Brookhaven to become a top “Destination City.”

Who will issue the “Get Started” charge?

Otis Raybon is the publisher of The Daily Leader. Contact him at otis.raybon@dailyleader.com or (601) 833-6961.

  • Anna Thomas

    As a 16 year employee of one of Brookhaven’s finest motels, I can tell you several reasons why this tax is not a good idea.

    First, many people are under the misconception that our business is just one night stays when in fact nothing could be further from the truth.

    What business we have is mostly long term. Major companies that put hundreds of workers into rooms every night.

    With the economy the way it is right now, I have vendors sending me letters asking us to enable them to switch their method of billing to email to save on the cost of postage stamps.

    Just think how much an extra 3% on top of their hotel bill is going to affect their bottom line if our state tax is already at 7% that’s a total of 10% per room.

    Second, just building a ball field is not going to bring us any more business.

    Most if not all ball games played here is by teams that are within driving distance to their homes so at best, the teams come to play, gas up, eat and leave.

    Third, Brookhaven is not a destination town that much is true, so if as the editor of our fine newspaper says, some where someone needs to start the drive to make it so then let it be all of Brookhaven.

    If we also include the restaurants with this tax as well as the hotels at 1% each we would garner much more money in a shorter amount of time.

    If Brookhaven is to be a destination city, then shouldn’t it be the responsibility of everyone in Brookhaven to see that it gets there.