Several hundred people gathered one afternoon last month at the Statehouse Convention Center as the Little Rock Convention & Visitors Bureau released its first-ever citywide tourism master plan.
The plan’s unveiling had the feeling of a celebration and came at the end of a long process in which there were focus groups, hundreds of survey responses and 60 individual meetings.
As someone who understands the importance of quality-of-life amenities to the economic health of cities and states, I read every word of the master plan and LRCVB’s 2023 business plan. We must stop thinking of projects such as these as simply efforts to attract tourists.
In the knowledge-based economy of the 21st century, the same things that attract tourists also attract smart, talented residents. Such efforts are just as important to economic development as industrial recruitment was in the 1950s and 1960s.
I liked some of the recommendations. But as I read through the slick publications, I couldn’t help but think that we must take care of the little things first.
For instance, I’ve been looking for a year now at graffiti on the back of the Robinson Center-DoubleTree Hotel-LRCVB parking complex as I take LaHarpe Boulevard into downtown Little Rock.
As far as I can tell, no one has lifted a finger to remove the graffiti even though thousands of cars pass it each day. I don’t get it.
I also don’t get why Little Rock city government won’t assign teams to remove graffiti and pick up trash along the city’s major thoroughfares. The failure to do so creates an impression among people across the state that this is a dangerous, out-of-control place. Perception becomes reality.
The little things, in other words. They matter.
That will be the subject of my column Saturday on the Voices page of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. I hope you will check it out.