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Smokies' ranked number one in tourism is why East Tennessee is poor

by Lewis Loflin

GATLINBURG, Tenn. (AP) - A National Park Service study ranks the Great Smoky Mountains as tops in visitor spending. The study estimates the Smokies' 9 million visitors in 2008 spent more than $800 million in the gateway communities around the park, notably Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge and Cherokee, N.C. October 28, 2009

It also means that each visitor to the Smokies is worth about $88. The study says that supported more than 14,000 local jobs or $571 each or about $11 a week, even if it all went for wages. The Smokies is ranked number one for tourism dollars. Tourism in general is a poverty industry (often part time and seasonal) for its workers while inflating the cost of living. Many economic planners in Virginia have sunk millions into existing tourist attractions hoping to duplicate Gatlinburg in Southwest Virginia.

Percent below poverty level (most recent) by state SOURCE: American Community Survey 2004 http://factfinder.census.gov/

 
# 1    	Mississippi:      21.6%   	
# 2   	Louisiana:        19.4% 
# 5    	West Virginia:    17.9%   	
# 7   	Kentucky:         17.4%  	
# 12   	North Carolina:   15.2%  	
# 14   	Tennessee:        14.5%
# 43    Virginia:         9.5%   	
# 50    New Hampshire:    7.6%  
Weighted average:         12.8% 

Gross State Product: Current Dollars (per capita) (most recent) by state. SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004. The per-capita income in Bristol Virginia is even less than West Virginia.

# 1    	District of Columbia:   $136,714.13 per capita   	
# 2   	Delaware:               $64,609.90 per capita  	
# 10    Virginia:               $43,162.41 per capita 
# 20    North Carolina:         $38,625.90 per capita 
# 31    Tennessee:              $36,381.10 per capita   
# 42    Kentucky:               $32,446.41 per capita   
# 50    West Virginia:          $27,395.68 per capita	

Per capita tax burden in US dollars, does not include local and federal tax. The data in this statistic is a survey of state government tax collection. SOURCE: US Census Bureau, 2004. in an interesting note that Tennessee (which makes up most of Tri-Cities) has the lowest tax burden state-wise than even poorer states such as West Virginia and Kentucky.

# 1    	Hawaii:         $3,050.03   	
# 2   	Wyoming:        $2,973.87 
# 19    West Virginia:  $2,067.85   	
# 21    Kentucky:       $2,043.31   	
# 26    North Carolina: $1,971.48
# 31    Virginia:       $1,902.56   	
# 44    Tennessee:      $1,617.03   	
# 50    Texas:          $1,368.45   	

Health Index (most recent) by state DEFINITION: Health Index by state. "The Healthiest State designation is awarded based on 21 factors chosen from the year 2005 edition of the annual reference book, Health Care State Rankings. (http://www.morganquitno.com/) These factors reflect access to health care providers, affordability of health care and a generally healthy population. Again we see that Virginia state-wide far surpasses West Virginia, Kentucky, etc. while Southwest Virginia still mirrors those poorer states.

# 1    	Vermont:         22.67   	
# 2   	New Hampshire:   21.4  	
# 17    Virginia:        6.74
# 28    West Virginia:   1.23 
# 32    Kentucky:        -0.86   	
# 33   	North Carolina:  -1.03  
# 38    Tennessee:       -5  
# 49    Mississippi:     -18.43   	
# 50   	Louisiana:       -20.95
Weighted average:   2.1    

Best States to Live (most recent) by state DEFINITION: Livability Index by state. "To determine a state's 'Livability Rating,' each state's rankings for 44 factors were averaged. The scale is 1 to 50, the higher the number, the better. Data used are for the most recent year in which comparable numbers are available from most states.

All factors were given equal weight. States with no data available for a given category were ranked based only on the remaining factors. In our book, data are listed from highest to lowest. However, for purposes of this award, we inverted rankings for those factors we determined to be 'positive.' Thus the state with the highest median income in the book (ranking 1st) would be given a number 50 ranking for this award." - Morgan Quitno Press SOURCE: Morgan Quitno Press, 2005

# 1    	New Hampshire:  35.45   	
# 2   	Minnesota:      33.86 
# 5    	Virginia:       31.57   	
# 40    North Carolina: 20.61   	
# 41    Kentucky:       20.48   	
# 46    West Virginia:  19.64   	
# 47    Tennessee:      19.5   	
# 48   	Arkansas:       19.25  	
# 49   	Louisiana:      17.25  	
# 50   	Mississippi:    16.11

Weighted average: 	25.5 	

Percent of Students Above Basic to Grade 8 Reading (most recent) by state. DEFINITION: The percentage of students that achieved a scale score in the subject of Reading at or above the level of Basic. Basic implies partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at each grade. SOURCE: National Center for Educational Statistics.

# 1    	North Dakota:  	83%   	
# 1   	Massachusetts: 	83%
= 14    Kansas:  	78%   	
= 14   	Ohio: 	        78%  	
= 14   	Virginia:       78%  
= 21   	New York:   	75%  	
= 21   	Kentucky:   	75% 
= 32    Rhode Island:  	71%   	
= 32   	Tennessee:  	71%  
= 35    North Carolina: 69%   	
= 39   	West Virginia: 	67%