Shortage of local hotel space called missed opportunity

·3 min read

Jul. 8—While much has been made of the need for more housing in Daviess County, that is not the only place the county could use some expansion. Officials say this summer is once again showing that there is room for more hotel or motel rooms.

"It is really needed," said Daviess County Economic Development Director Bryant Niehoff. "We are having conversations with developers, with brokers, with landowners about the possibilities there. Those conversations are taking place but there is a lot of research that goes into hotel development."

The county had backed the development of a Hampton Inn around three years ago, but it died during the COVID pandemic.

That leaves the county with 302 rooms to rent. Over the last few weeks, a lot of those rooms were full especially with some of the events like the Horse Progress Days last week.

"That was a lost opportunity," said Niehoff. "The fact is we have a lot to celebrate here in Daviess County and we are being put on the map in so many ways. Our Amish community plays a major role in that from a tourism and economic growth perspective."

"All you have to do is step back and look at all of the events we have and the impact of tourism and people would be amazed," said President of the Daviess County Visitors and Tourism Board DeWayne Shake. "We are fortunate with the hotels that we have. They do a great job. They just stay extremely busy and we are desperately in need of more hotels."

Daviess County has had dozens of events this year that have brought in people from out of town, including the livestock shows at the 4-H grounds, the Daviess County Fair as well as the Horse Progress Show. The community also has many more big events planned through the fall.

"We really need more rooms," said Shake. "A lot of times during the bigger events ours fill up fast and then we wind up losing people who stay in other communities like Vincennes and Jasper because they have a place to stay. You just hate to see that. It is a lost opportunity."

Economic development officials say that Daviess County often misses out on hotel and retail development because the traffic counts remain low while construction continues on I-69. But those numbers are expected to increase as the road develop up to Indianapolis and beyond Evansville.

"That will have an impact on traffic count numbers. In fact, we are already beginning to see those numbers increase," said Niehoff. "The developers, brokers and investors are also seeing it. There has been a lot of additional interest in the last few months as additional sections of I-69 have opened up. Just the other day they had the groundbreaking to the Ohio River crossing to the south. It's really neat to see this corridor come to life as we hit the landmarks to the north and south. It's very promising."

The promise of the interstate in terms of being a transportation corridor that will help grow business and tourism is something community leaders have been counting on for a long time.

"Getting those finished will have an impact on our future development," said Niehoff. "The highway was part of the overall outlook for growth in the future for decades. We are now seeing some of that growth begin in Washington and Daviess County. It's part of a long game the county has been working."