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Economic Impact Study Shapes GSMR Loan Proposal Discussion

County Commissioners meet at Savannah Volunteer Fire Department in Sylva

County Commissioners meet at Savannah Volunteer Fire Department in Sylva

During their regularly scheduled meeting last night, Jackson County Commissioners were given the results of an economic impact study that looked at the financial benefits that the reestablishment of Great Smoky Mountain Railroad (GSMR) steam engine service would have on the town of Dillsboro, and the greater area. The study was conducted by Dr. Steve Ha, Western Carolina University Associate Professor of Economics, and Sandra Grunwell, Western Carolina University Associate Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and concluded that “in terms of dollars, GSMR would contribute $25,979,093 to the local economy with its proposal.” With numbers near $26 million/year in economic boost being predicted by this study, the Dillsboro Board of Alderman, passed a resolution on March 11, 2013, that stated “we support and wholeheartedly endorse any move forward by JacksonCounty to return steam service by the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad to Dillsboro.” Both the economic study and the Dillsboro resolution are being considered by the Jackson County Commissioners before they vote on a $700,000 loan proposal that has been submitted by GSMR. GSMR claims they need the upfront revenues to fix a steam engine and install a turn table that will allow them to once again provide the tourist attraction at the Dillsboro Train Depot. The Commission will hold a public hearing during its next scheduled meeting on April 1, and is expected to vote on the proposal following the hearing.