Economic Development & Tourism
In recent years, education, tourism and the arts have played significant roles in the local economy, driving much of the economic growth in Town. With a focus on the future of Shepherdstown, the planning process investigated opportunities that the Town could pursue to both strenghten and diversify its economy. The process also explored the role the Town could play in supporting economic development, such as business retention strategies, providing incentives for new or expanding businesses and similar efforts.
As one of the primary drivers of the local economy (along with Shepherd University), tourism plays an outsized role in the fiscal and economic health of the Town. During the planning process, a great deal of concern was expressed about the changing nature of tourism in Shepherdstown. With changes in demographics, tastes and economic challenges cited as the underlying causes for continuing declines in tourism related spending and visits to the community, it appears that this once reliable source of economic stability is undergoing a significant transformation.
During the comprehensive plan development process, the decline of the local arts community was identified as having a negative effect on the local economy. In particular, the loss of downtown art galleries and associated businesses was determined as contributing to changes in the local tourism economy, which was once heavily oriented toward the local arts community.
A second major theme that was identified was the changing length of tourist visits. Specifically, what were once primarily multi-day visits to town have been trending more toward shorter visits due to economic constraints and transportation improvements that have essentially shortened the distance (as a function of time) between Shepherdstown and the nearby metropolitan areas from which the majority of the tourist base is drawn.
The presence of the C&O Canal, Civil War historic sites, the expansive and well preserved stock of historic architecture in town, community events, and the CATF were all cited as examples of attractors in the community for tourism. Better capitalizing on these assets and modifying the local approach to attracting and catering toward the changing needs and desires of tourists was a recurring theme throughout the process.