Right now, Alexander City is seeing a drop in the bucket — in this case a 44,000-acre bucket — from Lake Martin tourism dollars.
That drop needs to become a torrent if Alex City is going to prosper in the post-Russell Corp. era, according to chamber of commerce executive director Ed Collari.
“We’re a city of 14,000 people with a median income of about $32,000 and that’s not too attractive to national retailers,” Collari said. “That’s why a dedicated focus on tourism is so important too. Whether people want to admit it or not, the lake is our economic engine.”
Hopefully, the engine is getting turbocharged with the formation of the Lake Martin Tourism Association, which once fully organized will have a lot to market.
“Look at Wind Creek State Park,” Collari said. “Last year, 319,000 visitors went through the front door and that doesn’t count the boats. There’s Lake Martin, the (Charles E. Bailey) Sportplex, Jazz Fest, Russell Lands doing things all the time, the Smith Mountain Fire Tower. It would be nice to have one organization that can maintain a calendar of events, attracting fishing tournaments, sports tournaments.”
Significant economic development in Alex City must occur on the U.S. Highway 280 corridor, where all the traffic comes through the city. Already, municipal operations are moving out there to the former Russell Sales Officer and Russell Marine is going to build a massive superstore next door.
In January, when Russell Lands announced it would build the marine superstore, CEO Tom Lambeth said an economic impact study conducted in 2018 by RCLCO showed full- and part-time Lake Martin residents generate retail demand of $200 million a year.
Potential national retail stores want to see rooftops, traffic and sources of cash. All three are present and it’s time to take advantage of them.