I love walking down the boardwalk in Ocean City and admiring the hive of activity during the busy beach season. Seeing folks from all walks of life enjoying our Eastern Shore of life brings joy to my heart.
One way to continue supporting Ocean City tourism is to bring new jobs to the Lower Shore. Offshore wind developers are required to open two new operations and maintenance facilities in the Ocean City area, which means more jobs, more worker income, more local tax revenue, and more commerce for Ocean City businesses.
But as Mayor Meehan wails against the offshore wind developers over the height of their proposed turbines, he is doing a disservice to the residents of Ocean City. Like Las Vegas, the tourism capital of the world can attest, a recession can be a downright disaster for an area that relies so heavily on tourism. Las Vegas saw almost three million fewer visitors between 2007 – 2009 during the Great Recession. Residents lost homes, businesses were shattered, and families were decimated. Offshore wind will provide lower shore residents more job stability when the state and national economy inevitably cool off.
Ocean City has spent hundreds of thousands of tax dollars hiring hotshot attorneys and lobbyists to derail an industry that economists say will support an estimated 25,000 jobs in Maryland with more than $1.5 billion in worker and business income over the next twenty years.
Imagine if that money had been spent making safety improvements for bikes and pedestrians on Coastal Highway or combating the H20i car festival that frustrates residents and visitors each year.
Concerns about offshore wind and tourism are not supported by facts. Block Island in Rhode Island presents a lesson for Ocean City. The tourism-dependent island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm, and like Ocean City, some were concerned about the effect on tourism. Not only was tourism not impacted, it actually increased. The University of Rhode Island examined AirBnB data and found that occupancy rates increased 19 percent and added an extra $349 in revenue for owners. Block Island is proving that tourism and offshore wind can co-exist. Perhaps the mayor can use some of the money he is spending on lobbyists to visit block island and see the positive impacts for himself.
Economic opportunities like this come around once in a lifetime. We have an opportunity to help build a new American industry that will benefit Ocean City and the entire region. Our elected officials should stop, examine the situation and ask themselves if they want to go on the record as being against job creation for their own constituents. I certainly hope they think twice for the sake of our economy.