Visitors bring many benefits to community, economy

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 7, 2000

Did you notice the visitors?.

Friday, July 07, 2000

Did you notice the visitors?

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Throughout last weekend and through the middle of this week, there were plenty of visitors in Austin for our annual SPAMTOWN USA Festival. If the SPAM Jam map was any indication, visitors stuck pins in their home states – 46 of them. In addition, 14 foreign countries or territories also received pins on the map, showing how well-known our SPAM Jam has become – it’s an event of international proportions.

It was too bad that these visitors to our great city experienced the newspaper headlines declaring the unfortunate death of two other visitors to our city, those attracted here for work in the wake of our May 17 hailstorm.

However, while many were drawn to our city for SPAM Jam and related events throughout the weekend, many workers have been here for more than a month already and some may remain here for up to two years. The initial folks attracted to this area were response teams – insurance adjusters and appraisers. These teams of insurance people come from various areas of the country – ready to respond to large-scale damage and settle claims quickly.

After the initial wave of insurance people came the "hailstormers." These people chase hailstorms one after another and make money on them. They include paintless dent removal repair workers, roofers and home repair specialists.

While many of the firms are legitimate businesses, one does have to exercise caution for some firms that aren’t as established or aren’t as secure in performing their work. When a large hailstorm passed through the Iowa City, Iowa, area where I used to live a few years ago, these hailstormers would not only come in to town and set up shop, but also would purchase the rights to a legitimate roofing firm’s business for a year. Not only would they get the privilege to use the firm’s name for a year, but they also had telephone calls transferred from the established firm’s number to their offices in Texas and other locations around the country. Sure, you would look up a local roofer in the Yellow Pages of the phone book, but little would you know that your call was being forwarded a thousand miles away to be handed off to jobbers in town waiting for work.

Unfortunately, many of these established roofing firms were left holding the bag a year down the road when the out-of-state companies finished up work and left the area and the local company starts answering their phones again – potentially loaded with complaints of improper work.

Back to visitors: Austin will be host to a number of visitors for the next year or more as roofs are replaced and cars are repaired to their original condition. These visitors are staying in motels or short-term housing. What they are doing is boosting our local economy, believe it or not. You can bet our motels have more guests than usual – long-term guests at that. Not only are our local motels, restaurants, stores and other businesses making money off our hailstormers, we’re also collecting the motel tax from those staying in local lodging establishments.

Yes, we can find negatives to having some visitors in town, but keep in mind, there also are benefits to our community. Hailstorms are good for the economy. Need we say more?