In 2011, after many years of study, Rutgers University, in collaboration with the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program and World Monuments Fund, finished a landmark economic impact analysis of Route 66. For many communities along the highway corridor the Route 66 Economic Impact Report served as a planning tool for for creation of linked tourism and economic development strategies.
This week the university released an updated report, Route 66 Revisted, that was developed with assistance from theRoute 66: The Road Ahead Partnership, a nonprofit organization founded in 2016 to preserve, promote and revitalize the historic corridor. The report will provide valuable information for communities that are looking to utilize the Route 66 centennial in 2026 as a catalyst for historic district revitalization and tourism linked economic development.
The new report centers on case studies and provides detailed evaluation of several Route 66 communities. These include Atlanta, Illinois, Pontiac, Illinois, Springfield, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Amarillo, Texas, and Kingman, Arizona. The detailed report delves into each communities history, preservation, and economic activity. A pdf of the study in its entirety is available with this link.
A diverse array of consultants were utilized in development of the report. These include Bob Karls, former City Administrator of Pontiac, and Bob Russell, former Mayor of Pontiac. During their tenure the city, population 11,350, was transformed into a desitnation city in Illinois for travelers and for investors, and the historic district was revitalized.
For the Kingman, Arizona case study Joshua Noble, Deputy Director of Economic Development and Tourism, William Otwell, FAIA, and architect, and Jim Hinckley were used as consultants. Hinckley is a memeber of the Route 66: The Road Ahead Partnership economic development committe, author, lecturer, and developer of the Jim Hinckley’s America travel network. He has also served as a tourism development consultant for several communities including Cuba, Missouri and Tucumcari, New Mexico.
Capitalizing on the popularity of Route 66 is one component of area tourism development. Gina Kremper and Tami Ursenbach of Mohave County Economic Development and Tourism have spearheaded the creation of programs to build cooperative partnerships that enhance tourism related regional marketing. These programs include a monthly meeting with representatives from the tourism industry as well as business owners in Peach Springs, Kingman, Bullhead City, and Lake Havasu City, Arizona, and Needles, California.
The Rutgers report is Route 66 centric but it also highlights tourism initiatives and projects that can be enhanced by linking them to Route 66. “Kingman has used some of these programs for both community-wide and Route 66-specific economic development enhancement. For example, there are two Business Improvement District (BID) programs, which focus on the Kingman downtown Route 66 area, but in tandem have city-wide benefits concerning such activities as facade restoration and improvement.”
The report notes several initiatives that enhance tourism, contribute to the development of a sense of community, and lead to investment in the historic business district. An innovaive project developed by Kingman Main Street was profiled. “…has initiated a multifaceted project that includes public art, the renewal of the Route 66 Walk of Fame project, and the development of a narrated self guided walking tour of the historic business district and Route 66 corridor. The walking tour was launched at the 2022 National Road Trip Day proclamation event in Kingman on May 27, 2022. Tour signs, affixed to buildings or on sign stands, feature historic images, captions, and a QR code linked to audio files for narration. The website (https://kingman.tours) features a then and now photo, extended caption and the audio file for each site.”
Enhancements and infrastructure additions at the Powerhouse Visitor Center such as the signature drive through arch and Tesla charging stations, and the centering of events such as Chillin’ on Beale in the historic business district, magnify the economic impact of Route 66 related tourism.
The forthcoming Route 66 centennial represents an unprecedented opportunity for tourism and related economic development in western Arizona. It is also ideally suited, with coordinated promotion and marketing, to serve as a means to showcase the area to people looking for a place to raise a family, to open a business, or to retire.