Article originally appeared in the Union Recorder. 

MILLEDGEVILLE, Ga. — Tourism remains a key arena when it comes to economic development in Milledgeville and Baldwin County, accounting for $83 million added to the economy each year.

“I’m blessed; I get to promote the positive image of Milledgeville every single day,” Jane Sowell, Milledgeville Convention & Visitors Bureau executive director said during an Eggs & Issues breakfast on area economic development held at the Milledgeville campus of Central Georgia Technical College. “We are ambassadors to our community and we are the marketing agency of our community. Everything we do in our office is good for the community and it doesn’t cost any of you a penny.”

Sowell explained that the money that funds her office comes from hotel/motel taxes collected by the city of Milledgeville and dispersed to the agency to support its operations.

“It all starts with a visit,” Sowell said. “When you visit a community, is it the type of place you’d like to live and work? It all starts right here. When you come into our community, we want to have a positive impact on a visitor.”

Tourism is a coveted industry in the local community, she said.

“If you think about it, if Matt (Poyner) were to bring to city council and county commissioners that he has an $83 million industry wanting to come,” Sowell said, “we’d do whatever we could to get that industry.”

She pointed out that tourism works a little differently. It’s more spread around.

A year ago, Milledgeville city officials collected $532,000 in hotel/motel tax, she added.

The money that her office receives goes back into the community through marketing and attempting to attract newcomers of all kinds through advertisements in various publications.

“You don’t see it, because it’s a hotel, or a restaurant, an attraction or somebody buying gas as they passed through, but it’s an $83 million industry in our community,” Sowell said.