To the Editor:
How will the saga of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad end? There have been many letters written about this grant, comparing it to a loan of Jackson County taxpayer money, which it is not. It is a grant with many terms attached. The state of North Carolina provided this grant money to help counties attract new businesses. This is the money that Jackson County is using to fund the grant for the GSMR. We cannot expect to get more grant money until we use the money we have.
What are the chances the grant will be successful for both parties? Several weeks ago, Western Carolina University made a presentation to commissioners concerning the impact the railroad would have on north Jackson County and Dillsboro. It was astounding the number of direct and indirect jobs that would result from the return of the railroad. The benefit would be significant if only half of the jobs forecast in the report would occur.
Our unemployment rate is more than 10 percent. Does anyone think it is likely our rate will decline if we don’t start attracting new businesses? Business owners are depending on the GSMR to bring new customers. Our unemployed people need jobs as well as some of our young people who have not been able to find work. The GSMR can help our county make life better for many of our people.