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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Greenway IS jobs creator

We’re glad to see that the Ecusta Trail has become an issue that distinguishes candidates in two legislative races in the Henderson County area. It should.

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Although we’re a generation past the era when Brevard, Rosman and Cedar Mountain could attract an X-ray-making plant or a paper mill, leaders in Transylvania County insist that they’ve got to keep the Spartanburg-to-Brevard rail line open just in case Big Industry offers to invest several hundred million dollars in a factory that needs rail access.
“Our economic developers would prefer to use it to help build industry, but that has been unsuccessful for 15 years,” notes Chuck Edwards, one of three candidates running for the Republican nomination for the 48th Senate District (see Page 13).
We’re for economic prosperity, too, which is why we strongly favor the development of the Ecusta Trail.
The Friends of Ecusta Trail touts a study estimating that the 20-mile greenway, at a cost of $13 million, would have a one-time return on investment of $42 million and an annual ROI of $9.4 million in tourism revenue, taxes and health care savings. We agree with skeptics who say such projections can be a shot in the dark. Yet in some ways, tangible and intangible, we think the benefit could be even greater than that. We know that many retirees and young families make the decision to move here based on (almost year-round) recreational attractions. Adding one more prominent asset can only tip the scales.
Coty Ferguson, one of two candidates for the state House seat that Chris Whitmire is vacating, must have spent the Christmas break doing his homework. When we asked him a month ago what he thought of the greenway, he said it’s up to the property owners who live alongside the abandoned tracks. Last week Ferguson submitted a 780-word amendment to that answer that reflected freshly hatched enthusiasm for the idea (you can read his column at Hendersonvillelightning.com).
“What will our economy look like in the future? There is no doubt in my mind that it will include the Ecusta Trail,” he said. “… The Ecusta Trail is not a silver bullet, but it is a tool in the tool box, and in this case, it is the right tool for the job.”
Ferguson’s opinion piece and Edwards’ position both reflect an understanding of how our economy will grow in the next 20 years.
We’ll continue to land the GF Linamar plants and the medical industry suppliers. But we’ll also benefit from a hospitality, tourism and retirement boom driven by craft breweries, creative new restaurants, mountain bike trails and greenways. Those with the 20-20 vision to see that are the leaders we need as we approach 2020. Good-paying factory jobs are a part of that economic structure. So are outdoor recreational features that stimulate growth in the tourism and retirement sectors in what could be our new Roaring Twenties.