The SC Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) is spending money to find out how much the state made off the eclipse.
According to PRT’s newsletter, museums, state parks, etc. were sold out or nearly sold out due to this “rare celestial event.” It goes on to say:
“Because this type of anecdotal evidence is so strong all across South Carolina, we’re excited about seeing the final picture. We hope it informs us of the true economic impact of such an historic event.”
What’s missing is exactly what they hope to do with that information. We reached out to PRT to ask how much they are spending on this study and why, exactly, they commissioned it, but have not heard back.
Among other things, the PRT is instructed by state code to develop a plan that utilizes “to best advantage the natural facilities and resources of the State as a tourist attraction.” Like…the eclipse?
This is a good example of how the state approaches economic development. There is no real reason to spend taxpayer dollars to measure the economic impact of an once-in-a-lifetime event that just happened to center on South Carolina through no fault of the Coordinating Council for Economic Development. And there is no real return on investment we can expect here.
The only possible justification would be if the event in question was likely to occur again and there was a pressing need for additional state resources to meet the challenges brought to our state by the forces of nature – which sounds a lot more like a hurricane than an eclipse.
But in South Carolina, anything that even remotely appears to be related to economic development is eligible for state funding regardless of likely return on investment or lack thereof, or the project’s likelihood of success. The economic development angle is prioritized in nearly every aspect of state government and factors into everything from the annual appropriations bill to road decisions to nuclear plant construction – with rarely any follow-up to measure return on the taxpayers’ investment.
This particular instance is a taxpayer-funded victory lap over an economic success state officials had nothing to do with.
Can the state’s economic development team bring the eclipse back? No, but we wouldn’t put it past them to try.