Local business says tourism, arts are essential to Kentucky’s economy

Tourism is booming in Kentucky. Tourists spent $8.3 billion in 2014, according to the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. Local business owners say it’s an essential part of our economy, but Kentucky Gov.Matt Bevin might be heading in a different direction.

If you’re searching for some holistic healing, Susan Edwards has got you covered. She’s the owner of Rock Shop in downtown Paducah and says tourism is essential to this area.

"Tourists love our downtown," says Edwards. "They come to see our charming area."

In the summertime, the sidewalks in downtown are swarming with people from out-of-town coming to Paducah to spent their money.

"People come from all over the world to be here in Paducah, and it’s because of our efforts in tourism," says Edwards.

However, in the budget proposed Tuesday night, Bevin told state lawmakers that he wanted to cut spending on nonessential services by 9 percent beginning July 1. This includes the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, and under that is the Kentucky Arts Council, where the Market House Theatre turns to for some financial support.

Market House Theatre Executive Director Michael Cochran says the arts are also essential to Paducah, yet every year its funding is on the chopping block.

"We have all, who receives arts funding, have seen arts funding drop significantly over the past several years," says Cochran. "So an additional 9 percent cut is another cut on top of that."

Cochran says the arts in Paducah support more than 500 jobs. And, when families come to see a show or exhibit, many of them are spending money at local small business.

"Without all of the small businesses that depend on tourism, it’s going to definitely change our economy," says Edwards. "So, I’m essential."

Edwards says she hopes our local lawmakers will think twice before approving this budget.

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