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Ag official: Area to be top tourist destination

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Posted: Friday, February 19, 2010 12:00 pm | Updated: 9:12 am, Thu Aug 16, 2012.

By Hailey Persinger

Killeen Daily Herald

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples has a plan to "send out the welcome mat" from Central Texas to the rest of the world.

During a Greater Killeen Chamber of Commerce luncheon Thursday, Staples presented several programs to Central Texas leaders that he said will develop the region into a top tourism and retirement destination.

He said the area already has the basics it needs – low taxes and a fair court system – to attract tourists and the newly retired, but new recruitment programs will help add to both demographics.

Upholding a court system that doesn't back down on its decisions is a step toward recruiting business and subsequently, tourists. He used the state of California as an example of a government that became flexible in the face of economic hardship, which he said resulted in a move out of lucrative businesses throughout the state.

Staples said Texas is different. "To attract investment, we have to have a stable environment so people are confident that the rules won't change," he said. "We are forward thinking, but we don't change the rules in the middle of the game."

Low tax rates complement those unbending rules, he said. The lower the tax on businesses, the higher the chance that businesses will move into the area and the greater the impact on tourism, he told chamber members.

The effort to build tourism begins with residents, as well. Staples said Texas could one day surpass Florida as the retirement capital of the nation. That would bring in revenue from visiting family members as well as from retirees themselves.

Mayor Tim Hancock, who retired in Killeen with his wife, Maxine, said Killeen officials are developing an application for the Go Texas Certified Retirement Community Program, which was also discussed by Staples during the luncheon.

If Killeen is approved for the program, its draw as a retirement city would develop rapidly and would positively impact the quality of life for Killeenites.

"Anything that we can do to improve our image and quality of life … those things are good for our city," Hancock said.

Contact Hailey Persinger at haileyp@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7568. Follow her on Twitter at KDHcity.

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