Friday, June 16, 2017

Ark Park: Economic Boom or Bust?

There have been a great many articles about the economic impact that 'little kennie' ham's latest monument to his own ego, the Ark Park, has had on the local community.  The clear majority has been bad news for the citizens who thought it was going to be a tourist goldmine.

If you remember, one of the rationalizations that kennie used to sell the building of his ark park was how many visitors it would being into Grant County, Ky and the surrounding area.  By portraying it as a tourist trap and not a ministry, he sold it to the State and local governments who granted him all sorts of incentives and breaks.

But in all the press concerning such economic benefits, I have seen only one semi-positive article, the rest portrayed communities feeling more than a little victimized.  There was one that should to be viewed with a grain of salt . . . it was written by little kennie himself ("Economic benefits of Ark Park unfairly downplayed").  The clear majority of the reporting has shown that the ark park hasn't meet the expectations of the citizens who are paying for those incentives and breaks.  Here are a few examples:
"While a steady stream of visitors has flocked to visit the ark and the nearby Creation Museum, the impact on Williamstown’s economy has been far less than what many local residents expected." (Answers in Genesis? Ark, other attractions haven't boosted economy as expectedThe Daily Independent, June 7, 2017)
"Stormey Vanover is less hopeful. . . . She has operated Country Heart Crafts on Williamstown’s Main Street for the past nine years, sometimes with a profit, sometimes at a loss. “We do get a few people from the Ark, but they don’t really know we’re here,” she said amid the Kentucky-made soaps, candles and ornaments featured in her store, which is surrounded by empty storefronts. “It’s just not impacting us the way we thought it would.” " (Town expected flood of business after Noah’s Ark opened. So far, it’s a trickle, Lexington Herald Leader, June 2, 2017)
But the project’s single largest source of funding was actually $62 million in junk bonds floated by the town of Willamstown, population less than 4,000, home to the Ark Encounter and the county seat of Grant County, which faced bankruptcy this spring.“In terms of revenue for the county, we don’t get too much from them,” says the county’s chief executive, Stephen Wood. The Ark Encounter negotiated a vastly discounted 30-year rate on property taxes in 2013 under a previous administration. “I hate it, but that’s the deal,” says Wood.(A giant ark is just the start. These creationists have a bigger plan for recruiting new believers., The Washington Post, May 24, 2017 )
So, with the conclusion that the economic windfall isn't happening, the next question is who is to blame.  While that might not sound like a fair question, it does need to be addressed because little kennie, for all his pronouncements about how well the ark park is doing, posted this today:
"Recently, a number of articles in the mainstream media, on blogs, and on well-known secularist group websites have attempted to spread propaganda to brainwash the public into thinking our Ark Encounter attraction is a dismal failure. Sadly, they are influencing business investors and others in such a negative way that they may prevent Grant County, Kentucky, from achieving the economic recovery that its officials and residents have been seeking." (The Secularist Media War Against the Ark Continues, Answers in Genesis Ministry News, June 12, 2017)
Basically it's the atheists' fault.  Regardless of the lack of reporting from little kennie on actual attendance figures, or economic information impact, it's all the secular groups' fault.  Now I have a question, do you think believers in kennie's narrow version of the universe really pay much attention to the media, especially when the media isn't particularly flattering about one of their ministries?

I'm serious, I don't think anything the media says would affect their interest to visit kennie's ministries.  The media hasn't been particularly flattering to his Creation 'museum' and it seems to be making kennie lots of money, but not the communities in the surrounding area.  So, if anything, the media's representation of the ark park is probably keeping some people away, but would those people want to visit it anyway?

Serious question, while some might visit out of curiosity, but no media coverage, flattering or not, will get most people who disagree with kennie's point of view to visit one of his ministries.  So why aren't the local communities experiencing some sort of economic renaissance?  One thing might be kennie's overstated projections.  In his post Kennie said ". . . The economic recovery that the officials and residents have been seeking" but that's not an accurate picture.  It's not just that those communities were seeking, but that's the economic impact kennie said they would receive . . . providing they gave kennie all sorts of incentives and breaks so he could build his ministry there.  They did, yet the economic benefits are going where exactly?

Before the ark park was built, little kennie made a number of projections made, he even reduced his final set of attendance estimates to between 1.4  and 2.2 million visitors a year, recent reports say he's close to seeing his 1 millionth visitor -- which is interesting since it's been open over a year now.  More realistic estimates claimed while the first year will bring in many curious believers, as time goes on, it will decline to about 375,000 a year.  Far below his projections.

While it would be nice to blame kennie, the fault isn't entirely his.  Yes, his forecasts and projections have been mostly smoke, but the local people and their elected officials are also responsible.  What they should have told kennie when he announced plans to build his ministry was "Have fun!"  They should not have offered any incentives or tax breaks, after all it's a ministry.  But they were looking for a lifeline and that bought into kennie's overly optimistic numbers. Remember the adage "Let the buyer beware.", well they bought into it and now they get to pay for the privilege.  If I recall correctly. kennie forecasted 3000 new jobs, but in reality on about 900 have materialized.  A small county not getting 2100 anticipated jobs is another significant impact.

Things are so bad for Grant County that they may have to go bankrupt.  But they do have a plan, and it hits kennie where it hurts, in his wallet.  They are proposing a $0.50 tax on entertainment ticket sales.  We wrote about it in "Greedy Shepherd Annoyed that the Sheared Sheep are Making Noise".  Little kennie claims such a tax would force him to raise his $40 ticket price.  Sure, 1.25% tax is going to 'force' his to raise his ticket prices.  It wouldn't have been necessary if kennie had made realistic projections and the county understood what it was getting.  But that is a little too much to ask.  

What I will say, at this point, is someone is making money off of the ark park, and it's not the local community.  Gee, I wonder who it could be?  In the meantime, little kennie's 'ark of ignorance' is open for business while the rest of the area might not be able to say that for long.

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