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A rural community pauses to gauge attitudes on the road to an alternative economic strategy

Introduction

This community-based research uses Q methodology to examine perceptions of tourism and downtown development in a lower Midwest town that has experienced continual economic downturn and decreasing population. With memories of the thriving ranching and oil heyday, some community members are approaching tourism as the new black gold. At the same time, there is a perception of a fractious community characterized by a heritage of racism, cultural tension, and an aging, burned-out volunteer base. One of the goals of this study was to help community planners make sense out of what they perceived as a jumble of viewpoints. The results of a Q study can help planners determine in a systematic way the significant, persistent attitudes surrounding the issue of tourism development from a broad community perspective. The Chamber of Commerce board members, community leaders, and volunteers used this study as a building block for their strategic plan in tourism.

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