Visitor spending in N.C. hits record $17 billion

Published 9:14 am Friday, September 16, 2011

North Carolina businesses took in more from visitor spending last year than they ever have before. Visitors to North Carolina spent a record $17 billion in the state in 2010, an increase of 9 percent over 2009, according to the N.C. Department of Commerce.
The state reports that 183,880 jobs in North Carolina were directly supported by visitor spending, which also generated nearly $1.5 billion in tax revenue for state and local governments, a 10 percent increase from 2009. Visitor spending was up in 98 of the state’s 100 counties, and 13 of the counties saw double-digit increases.
N.C. Governor Bev Perdue attributed the increased visitor spending to investments that have created a higher quality of life in the state.
“The progress is attracting people and businesses to move here, and, as we see from this data, it also is drawing more tourists and visitors each year, fueling the tourism industry, a critical economic driver in North Carolina,” said Perdue.
According to the state, tourism spending supported nearly $4 billion in payroll income in North Carolina last year. Mecklenburg County has more than 41,000 employees in tourism-related businesses, the most of any county. Wake was second with 18,430 and Guilford was third with 11,440.
Mecklenburg County also led the state in tourism spending with approximately $3.7 billion, followed by Wake County with more than $1.5 billion and Guilford County with more than $1 billion. Only Columbus and Northampton counties saw declines in visitor spending last year. Tourism spending figures are estimates based on sales and tax revenue figures, along with employment data.
– source: N.C. Department of Commerce
Travel through Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) continues to rise since Southwest Airlines arrived at the airport in March.
GSP set another record for passenger traffic in July, serving 170,020 passengers for the month, an increase of 37.2 percent over July 2010. The total was also up 2 percent from the previous all-time high set in June.
GSP said it expects passenger traffic will remain high. After Southwest began service in March, Delta Airlines began using larger airplanes to serve more passengers from GSP.
The airport said it could see an additional increase in traffic next year when AirTran Airways discontinues its service from Asheville, N.C., but continues flights from GSP.
– source: ‘The Business Journal’ for Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson , 9/12/11
Allegiant Air has announced new, nonstop service between Asheville and Orlando, Fla., beginning Nov. 18. The low-cost airline said it believes Western North Carolina residents will appreciate the nonstop service on a 150-seat MD-80 jet plane to Orlando Sanford International Airport.
Allegiant said it plans to offer the flights on Monday and Friday each week. Flights will depart from Asheville at 8:20 p.m., arriving in Orlando at 9:50 p.m. Return flights will depart at 6:10 p.m., and arrive in Asheville at 7:40 p.m.
The airline is offering a one-way introductory fare through Oct. 3.
The N.C. House and Senate approved this week a proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, sending the issue to voters next year in a referendum.
The state already has a law that recognizes only heterosexual unions as legal marriages. However, the General Assembly is pushing to put a same-sex marriage ban in the state’s constitution, which supporters said will send an even stronger message to gay couples that they should not seek legal marriage rights in North Carolina. The proposed constitutional amendment also would prohibit the state from accepting non-marriage civil unions.
The proposed amendment passed by a 75-42 vote in the House and a 30-16 vote in the Senate. Voters will decide in next year’s May primary election if the amendment will be made to the state’s constitution.
Supporters of the bill agreed to hold the referendum during the primary election rather than the November 2012 general election after Democrats objected that Republicans were pushing the issue to boost turnout during the presidential election. Supporters of the bill said it may have an even better chance of passing in the May primary because turnout will be boosted by the Republican primary.
North Carolina currently is the only state in the southeast that does not ban gay marriage in its constitution.
– sources: McClatchy Newspapers, 9/12/11;, 9/15/11
The U.S. Postal Service said it will close its processing and distribution facility near Hickory, N.C., and consolidate the operations at the Greensboro, N.C., processing and distribution center.
The Postal Service said it expects significant savings from the consolidation, which will result in a loss of jobs in the Hickory area but a boost for Greensboro. About 176 people currently work at the mail center in Hickory, according to the postal service, which plans to reassign some “career employees” from Hickory to Greensboro.
Local officials in the Hickory area fought to keep the center there, but their appeals did not persuade the postal service, which is facing a potential default at the end of this month on a $5.5 billion payment to the U.S. Treasury. The postal service, which does not use federal funds for operations, must make the payment as part of a requirement to prefund retiree health benefits. The postal service has asked Congress to eliminate the requirement, noting that other federal agencies do not face the same obligation.
The postal service also is seeking to cut its workforce by up to 220,000 and close 3,700 offices nationwide, including 20 in North Carolina. The proposed closures do not include any offices in Polk County.
– source: Hickory Daily Record, 9-6-11
Researchers at N.C. State University have set traps and begun monitoring the spread of the Asian stink bug in the state. They said the insect can be helpful in halting the spread of kudzu, but it also can decimate crops.  The insect already was spotted in North Carolina in some residential areas and near some farm fields in July, and has been seen in areas across South Carolina.
Researchers said the insect, also known as the brown marmorated stink bug, caused extensive crop damage last year in parts of Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania. The insect can feast on crops such as apples, peaches, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, sweet corn and soybeans.
Researchers said this may be the year that the insect reaches North Carolina.
“It really wasn’t until last year until the populations (in the mid-Atlantic states) unexpectedly exploded,” said Jim Walgenbach, a researcher at NCSU’s Mountain Horticultural Crops Research & Extension Center in Mills River. “Listening to my colleagues up there, it sounded like a biblical plague.”
Walgenbach said the insect is likely to expand more quickly in the Carolinas because of the warmer climate.
– source: Raleigh News and Observer, 9/5/11
Bertie County in Eastern North Carolina is trying to recover after suffering through three major disasters in the past year. The county received more than 24 inches of rain and endured days of flooding when Tropical Storm Nicole passed through last September. More than 200 homes and businesses were destroyed and boats were used to rescue some residents from upper floors of buildings. Seven months later tornadoes ripped through the county, killing 12 people and destroying 67 homes. Many other properties suffered severe damage.
The most recent disaster to hit the county came from Hurricane Irene, which brought more widespread flooding. The county’s two major cash crops, tobacco and cotton, were severely damaged.
Bertie is one of 33 counties in the state that are eligible for federal disaster assistance following Hurricane Irene.
Despite the recent string of disasters, many of the county’s residents said they are sticking around to help the county rebuild. After debris from the hurricane is removed, residents said they will get back to work on rebuilding structures damaged in the tornadoes.
“I love it here,” said Bertie County resident Tricia Jerrigan. “It’s country. Nobody bothers you. Where else would I go?”
– source:, 9-7-11
The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said it’s formulating a plan to address increased bear sightings in the state. The agency said its goal is to keep the state’s bear population at a level that fits with land-use objectives and acceptable levels of human contact.
The state reports that more than 200 bear sightings have occurred in Upstate South Carolina so far this year, far more than what was reported last year. Only 110 bear sightings were reported in all of last year, according to the state.
DNR said it has no records of bears attacking people in the state, but it reminds residents that feeding bears is illegal and could result in a fine of up to $500.
– source:, 9/12/11
North Carolina has launched a “No Kid Hungry” program to try to make sure all children have breakfast during school and even in the summer.
The federally-funded program will begin as a pilot program in 28 schools in the state, offering free breakfast to students who qualify for the federal free or reduced-price lunch.
The state said about 640,000 students in North Carolina qualify for the free or reduced meals, but fewer than half of them participate in school breakfast.
The state, which ranks 11th in the nation for households facing food hardship, announced the program along with its partner organizations, national nonprofit Share Our Strength and North Carolina nonprofit N.C. Serves.
According to the state, one in four children are at risk of hunger in North Carolina. Organizers said they plan to expand the program eventually to include meals during the summer.
Share Our Strength already has similar partnerships in 14 other states and plans to launch the program in four others this year.
“In the states where we’ve already done it, we’ve seen huge results – literally tens of thousands of kids added to school breakfast, added to summer meals, so we know that we can do that here in North Carolina,” said Bill Shore, founder of Share Our Strength. “The federal money is set aside to pay for it and it’s money that comes into North Carolina and buys milk from local dairy farmers, bread from local bakeries, so it’s a win-win for everybody.”

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